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Enough is enough

Patricia Beer

26 September 1991
by Antonia White, edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 320 pp., £19.95, September 1991, 0 09 470650 6
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... In her introduction to AntoniaWhite’s Diaries the editor, her elder daughter Susan Chitty, quite naturally raises the question of whether or not they should have been published at all. But such doubts as she may have had, and ...

Perfect Light

Jenny Diski

9 July 1992
Diana: Her True Story 
by Andrew Morton.
Michael O’Mara, 165 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85479 191 5
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 285 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 7475 1164 0
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Antonia WhiteDiaries 1958-1979 
edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 352 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 09 470660 3
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... is how much do we really want, or need, to know about the lives of those who do achieve something memorable? Clearly, we want to know quite badly, if the plethora of biographical material on AntoniaWhite is anything to go by. Since her death, squabbles and law suits have busied her offspring, and trees by the dozen have been felled in the cause of discovering the real AntoniaWhite. The second volume ...

Biscuits. Oh good!

Anna Vaux: Antonia White

27 May 1999
Antonia​ White 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 484 pp., £20, November 1998, 9780224036191
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... AntoniaWhite died in 1980 leaving behind four novels, over thirty translations (mainly Colette), two books about cats, some stories and a piece of autobiography. She also left two daughters (Susan Chitty and ...

Editor’s Story

Peter Campbell

18 November 1982
Of This Our Time 
by Tom Hopkinson.
Hutchinson, 317 pp., £8.95, April 1982, 9780091478605
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... from the multiplicity of channels which cable and satellite television promise to make available. Hopkinson would probably rather have made his mark as a writer than as an editor. His first wife was AntoniaWhite, and he desbribes how they would ‘sit for as many hours as we could allow or keep awake at our two desks. What I was writing was a novel – unpublished and happily never to be published – ...

Love’s Labours

Valerie Pearl

8 November 1979
King Charles II 
by Antonia​ Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 524 pp., £8.95
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... In her first line, Antonia Fraser describes her book as ‘a labour of love’. Given her somewhat romantic view of Charles II’s many affairs of the heart and her warm sympathy for the King, it is a doubly apt admission. The ...


C.K. Stead: Truth and autobiographies

27 April 2000
... to pay the bill in restaurants and so on.) The other guests are Julian Jebb (unkindly caricatured), Hugh Fraser (‘tall’, ‘lopsided’, with an ‘aura of helpless authority’) and his wife Antonia, whose charms and ‘sexiness’ are unstintingly acknowledged. Then a couple from New Zealand arrive: Malcolm, an academic who looked after Naipaul on a recent lecture tour to the country, and Robin ...


Jenny Diski

28 April 1994
Roald Dahl: A Biography 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 307 pp., £17.50, March 1994, 0 571 16573 7
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... what he seems to be. Is there anyone left in the world who doesn’t believe at some level or other in the disjunction between appearance and reality? I suppose somewhere deep in the forests where no white man has trod; in the highest, most inaccessible plateaux of some far-flung mountainous region, there might be a few primitive folk left who still think that what they see is what there is. But the ...

Don’t think about it

Jenny Diski: The Trouble with Sonia Orwell

25 April 2002
The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 208 pp., £9.99, May 2002, 0 241 14165 6
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... and a mother who remarried a year later a man who was at least a drunk, if not a psychopath. When she was six, she was sent, as if to complete the gothic theme, to the same awful convent school that AntoniaWhite attended and wrote about in Frost in May. Vicious nuns, a minimal education for middle-class marriage and – something, at least – a powerful enemy to kick against. As an adult she would ...

Going Native

A.N. Wilson: Theroux’s portait of Naipaul

13 May 1999
Sir Vidia’s Shadow: A Friendship across Five Continents 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 376 pp., £17.99, December 1998, 0 241 14046 3
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... which was often, and always by the light of candles, she howled eagerly in the ecstasy of sex like an addict injected, and her eyes rolled up in her skull and she stared, still howling, with big white eyes like a blind zombie that sees everything. Her howls and her thrashing body made the candle flames do a smoky dance. Afterwards, limp and sleepy, stupefied by sex, she draped over Julian like a ...

Pipe down back there!

Terry Castle: The Willa Cather Wars

14 December 2000
Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism 
by Joan Acocella.
Nebraska, 127 pp., £13.50, August 2000, 0 8032 1046 9
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... rather than romantic grandstanding. When Cather came to compose the great, limpid narratives of Midwestern prairie life that made her famous – O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), My Antonia (1918), One of Ours (1922), A Lost Lady (1923) and The Professor’s House (1925) among them – it was exactly this quality of noble withholding that she sought to achieve. Cather’s preference may ...

Injury Time

Robert Taubman

2 July 1981
Gorky Park 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins, 365 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 00 222278 7
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The Turn-Around 
by Vladimir Volkoff, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Bodley Head, 411 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 370 30323 7
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Thus was Adonis murdered 
by Sarah Caudwell.
Collins, 246 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 00 231854 7
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A Splash of Red 
by Antonia​ Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £5.95, May 1981, 0 297 77937 0
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... Between the three corpses dug out of the snow in Gorky Park, Moscow and the sables let loose in the snow on Staten Island at the end – ‘black on white, black on white, and then gone’ – there are connections of cause and effect such as few crime novels have ever had to cope with. Gorky Park is a long novel because it tries to deal as fully with Moscow as ...

Nice Guy

Michael Wood

14 November 1996
The Life and Work of Harold Pinter 
by Michael Billington.
Faber, 414 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 571 17103 6
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... and watersheds, where people stay the course and stick to each other through thick and thin. Shocks are seismic, memories photographic, deaths sad, suicides tragic. If anyone creates it’s at white heat. ‘Pinter’s openings are always good,’ Billington writes; ‘this one is no exception.’ Spot on. Billington gives a coherent account of Pinter’s career, from his early days in Jewish ...


Janet Todd

21 December 1989
Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up 
by Hermione Lee.
Virago, 409 pp., £12.99, October 1989, 0 86068 661 2
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... law, like what keeps the big clock up there going, little wheels and big, and no mix-up.’ Although it seemed that the new ideal could be found in art, another pioneering pastoral followed, My Antonia, finding value in the past as the present went to war. The ideal, much modified by inside and outside forces, may be kept going, it seems, by those who, like Antonia, make the best of things. As in ...
22 November 1979
The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work 
by Germaine Greer.
Secker, 373 pp., £12.50, November 1979, 1 86064 677 8
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... there: Marie Elisabeth Hayer (d. 1699), Margareta Maddalena Rottmayr (d. 1687), Placida Lamme (d. c. 1692), a gentlewoman of the name of Denisch (c. 1750), Katherina Kreitmayer (d. 1726), Margareta Antonia Hölzl (fl. 1767), Theresia Herman (fl. 1781) and Marie Luisa Melling (1762-99) are just some of the women who worked independently as church painters in the 17th and 18th centuries. Early chapters ...

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