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Gertrude

Graham Hough

18 September 1980
Nuns and Soldiers 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 505 pp., £6.50, September 1980, 0 7011 2519 5
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Collin 
by Stefan Heym.
Hodder, 315 pp., £7.95, August 1980, 0 340 25721 0
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An Inch of Fortune 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 176 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 85634 108 8
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Virgin Kisses 
by Gloria Nagy.
Penguin, 221 pp., £1.25, July 1980, 0 14 005506 1
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... the apparent moral simplicities prove ambiguous or uncertain. The two heraldic supporters of Gertrude are first Peter, known as the Count, a Polish refugee, friend and former colleague of Guy; and Anne, college friend of Gertrude, recently emerged from 14 years in a convent. The Count is the only possible candidate for the ‘soldier’ of the title, and he becomes so only by virtue of a single ...

‘Porter!’

Penelope Gilliatt

19 May 1983
The Life of Katherine Anne​ Porter 
by Joan Givner.
Cape, 572 pp., £15, March 1983, 0 224 02093 5
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... By God, America is great, and so are its scholarly books. This one is 572 pages long and it took the author twenty years to write. Longer than Katherine Anne Porter found to write the whole of her resplendent work. Joan Givner’s book might be called light plane reading, except that it is heartlessly grave, gravid though fruitless, and would take the ...
7 March 2019
... a background of social security.                  Oh what a glorious time we had.                  Or had we not? They said it was sad.                  I was born good, grown bad.                           And isn’t that how it always starts, this myth that ends with the girl ‘grown bad’?                           She ...
31 March 2005
... a knot of disciplesexpoundingthe difference between[two concepts that must be distinguished]. Most wore shaggy furs or sheepskins,the philosopher a heavy sweater. ‘It will be warmer after we’re born,’I said to Adamand he said,‘Of this I am not sure ...
3 June 1982
Letters from Africa 1914-1931 
by Isak Dinesen, edited by Frans Lasson, translated by Anne Born.
Weidenfeld, 474 pp., £12.95, September 1981, 9780297780007
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... In 1972 I started work on a study of Denys Finch Hatton and his relationship with Karen Blixen. The biographer’s nightmare is the knowledge that an important collection of papers pertaining to his subject is being withheld from him during research. When his subject is the more elusive half of a pair of lovers, the question immediately arises as to whether there can be a biography at all. I had to ...

Someone Else’s Dog

Tessa Hadley: Per Petterson

18 November 2010
I Curse the River of Time 
by Per Petterson, translated by Anne Born.
Harvill Secker, 233 pp., £12.99, July 2010, 978 1 84655 301 1
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... The Norwegian writer Per Petterson’s best-known novel, Out Stealing Horses (2005), won praise and prizes, and was an international bestseller. It opens with Trond, a man in his sixties who has retreated to longed for solitude in the woods, encountering another man late at night outside his house – the second man is worried because his dog keeps running off (there are wolves in the forest). They ...

Two Poems

Emile Nelligan, translated by Anne​ Carson

11 May 2006
... Lucifer jeering at my broken heart, mad heart! Look at the suicide grinding his blade, look there’s a good calm hanging tree – Priest, pray for me, it’s night in the city! Emile Nelligan was born on Christmas Eve 1879 in Montreal to an Irish father (David Nelligan) and a French-Canadian mother (Emilie-Amanda Hudon). Emile was a prize-winning student in his early years at school but surprised ...

Horror like Thunder

Germaine Greer: Lucy Hutchinson

21 June 2001
Order and Disorder 
by Lucy Hutchinson, edited by David Norbrook.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £55, January 2001, 0 631 22061 5
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... and Disorder and known writings of Hutchinson, and equally strong divergences from other authors; and the poem’s political and theological outlook matches Hutchinson precisely. Lucy Apsley was born in 1620, in the Tower of London. In an autobiographical fragment she claimed that by the time she was seven she had eight tutors and that she was taught Latin by her father’s express wish. She also ...

La Bolaing

Patrick Collinson: Anne​ Boleyn

18 November 2004
The Life and Death of Anne​ Boleyn 
by Eric Ives.
Blackwell, 458 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 631 23479 9
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... If the past is another country where they do things differently, we may well ask whether we are abroad if we visit the England of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. In September 1528, Henry wrote to Anne: ‘No more to you at this present, mine own darling, for lack of time, but that I would you were in mine arms or I in yours, for I think it long since I kissed you.’ This doesn’t sound much like ...

More Like a Mistress

Tom Crewe: Mr and Mrs Disraeli

15 July 2015
Mr and Mrs Disraeli: A Strange Romance 
by Daisy Hay.
Chatto, 308 pp., £20, January 2015, 978 0 7011 8912 9
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... I was ten or eleven. Our headmaster also taught history, and though he was known to us mainly as an expert in horse-drawn hoes, seed drills and threshing machines, that day he introduced us to a man born into the wrong religion and given an imperfect education, an author of unlikely novels and unlikelier cheques, sniffed at by the upper classes when he arrived at their dinner tables and baited by the ...

‘Monocled Baron Charged’

David Coward: Vichy’s commissioner for Jewish affairs

8 June 2006
Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland 
by Carmen Callil.
Cape, 614 pp., £20, April 2006, 0 224 07810 0
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... and the Vichy government with delivering France’s quota of Jews for deportation. The name was familiar. Between 1963 and 1970, she had been treated three times a week by a psychoanalyst named Anne Darquier, to whom she had become very close, and who had probably committed suicide. Were they related? They were, and for more than three decades Callil, conscious of a need to discharge a debt as ...

Harley Street

Ruth Padel

3 December 1992
... She was born round the corner in an attic. Balancing chemistry textbooks on her feet, her father pushed the ivory five-foot pram down the middle. ‘He thought you were immortal’ says her mother. Later she ...

Was Carmen brainwashed?

Patrick Parrinder

5 December 1985
Life goes on 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 517 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 246 12709 0
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Men and Angels 
by Mary Gordon.
Cape, 239 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 224 02998 3
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Heavenly Deception 
by Maggie Brooks.
Chatto, 299 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 9780701128647
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Love Always 
by Ann Beattie.
Joseph, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 7181 2609 2
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... discarded at the rate of approximately one every fifty pages. No contemporary novelist has a stronger sense than Sillitoe of the wool-gathering, homespun poetry of the masculine adventurer, the free-born Englishman for whom (in one of Cullen’s striking anachronisms) this is still a ‘cosy and exciting country to live in’. Sillitoe has a nice ear for English place-names: there are high jinks at ...

Frocks and Shocks

Hilary Mantel: Jane Boleyn

24 April 2008
Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford 
by Julia Fox.
Phoenix, 398 pp., £9.99, March 2008, 978 0 7538 2386 6
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... inert and vacuous feature film will be clogging up the multiplexes. In reworkings of the Tudor soap opera, Jane Boleyn is more often known as Jane Rochford, wife of George Boleyn, sister-in-law to Anne the queen. There are some lives we read backwards, from bloody exit to obscure entrance, and Jane’s is one of them. She was beheaded in 1542, with Henry VIII’s fifth queen, Catherine Howard. She ...

Seeing and Being Seen

Penelope Fitzgerald: Humbert Wolfe

19 March 1998
Harlequin in Whitehall: A Life of Humbert Wolfe 
by Philip Bagguley.
Nyala, 439 pp., £24.50, May 1997, 0 9529376 0 3
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... writer’s hidden wound, then comes a chilling dismissal. She won’t think of him again. Humbert Wolfe’s declared autobiographies are Now a Stranger (1933) and The Upward Anguish (1938). He was born Berto Wolff, the son of a medium well-off Jewish family in the Bradford wool trade, who lived, he said, ‘in acute terror’ of having to enter the ‘trade’. His father died when he was only nine ...

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