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6 July 1989
Laughter and the Love of Friends: A Memoir 1945 to the Present Day 
by Ursula Wyndham.
Lennard, 208 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 1 85291 061 5
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1939: The Last Season of Peace 
by Angela Lambert.
Weidenfeld, 235 pp., £14.95, April 1989, 0 297 79539 2
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Rosehill: Portraits from a Midland City 
by Carol Lake.
Bloomsbury, 179 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 9780747503019
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... a few galas would have done the working classes a power of good: ‘the solid workman is a splendid chap, but he did not volunteer.’ Nearly every bit of this vocabulary is foreign to the world of CarolLake, which contains no balls, no volunteers and few workmen. Like Ursula Wyndham, CarolLake is a single woman – no spinster – who is detached from but committed to the community in which she ...

Lovers on a Train

Susannah Clapp

10 January 1991
Carol 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0719 8
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... detail, and their insulation from the rest of the world. This can go too far. Some of her narration has a stunned, Janet-and-John quality. But the restaurant served only beer and wine, so they left. Carol did not stop anywhere for her drink as they drove back towards New York. Carol asked her if she wanted to go home or come out to Carol’s house for a while, and Therese said to Carol’s house. She ...

Heads and Hearts

Patrick Parrinder

28 May 1992
Underworld 
by Peter Conrad.
Chatto, 252 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 7011 3895 5
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A Case of Curiosities 
by Allen Kurzweil.
Hamish Hamilton, 358 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 241 13235 5
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Rotten Times 
by Paul Micou.
Bantam, 266 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 593 02621 7
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The Republic of Love 
by Carol​ Shields.
Fourth Estate, 366 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 1 872180 88 4
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... Rotten Times the main character suffers from a hyperactive access of memory, known as Tourraine’s Syndrome, brought on while he was shaving in an aircraft flying through a thunderstorm. Even Carol Shields’s The Republic of Love, by far the most mundane of these novels, starts off with a sentence that could easily have graced a Science Fiction magazine: ‘As a baby, Tom Avery had 27 mothers ...

Hands Full of Rose Thorns and Fridge Oil

Elizabeth Lowry: ‘Triomf’

20 January 2000
Triomf 
by Marlene van Niekerk, translated by Leon de Kock.
Little, Brown, 444 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 0 316 85202 3
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... and gone home. In Trafalgar Square, a beaming Nelson Mandela casts a paternal eye over the lobby of South Africa House. Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo have been signed up by Heinz to carol ‘Inkanyezi Nezazi’ in an advertisment showing blond children eating tomato soup. In Britain we are occasionally treated to a television documentary or news headline about the spread of Aids among ...

Zest

David Reynolds: The Real Mrs Miniver

25 April 2002
The Real Mrs Miniver 
by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.
Murray, 314 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 7195 5541 8
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Mrs Miniver 
by Jan Struther.
Virago, 153 pp., £7.99, November 2001, 1 85381 090 8
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... time in US history, there was no longer a viable balance of power in Europe. Interventionists warned that if the French or British fleet fell into Hitler’s hands the Atlantic would become a German lake. Roosevelt talked of the new age of air-power. What if the Nazis established themselves in Fascist states in South America, within a few hours’ bombing time of Washington DC? America’s own Air ...

Trauma Style

Joanna Kavenna: Joyce Carol​ Oates

19 February 2004
The Tattooed Girl 
by Joyce Carol​ Oates.
Fourth Estate, 307 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 00 717077 7
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... Joyce Carol Oates is fascinated by the seedy corners of American life. Her recent novels are narrated by orphans, mutilated girls, the abused, the impoverished, celebrities destroyed by fame, children from ...

Risky Business

Elaine Showalter

22 September 1994
Telling Women’s Lives: The New Biography 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 201 pp., $22.95, July 1994, 0 8135 2092 4
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... of contemporary literary biography have come in for some harsh recent criticism from women writers, especially when the subject is a woman. In a review of a book about Jean Stafford in 1988, Joyce Carol Oates declared her disgust with ‘pathography’, a narrative focused on dysfunction, breakdown, addiction and disaster, rather than on the mysterious process whereby artists spin their dirty straw ...
4 May 1989
... and stygian pools have exerted such an exorbitant grip upon my unconscious throughout my life.I came to learn that the most important single event of my childhood was the death of my young sister, Carol. Without the least suspicion, I had lived, worked and loved in the shadow of her death. Its hold upon me had been as complete as it was unsuspected. Certainly, when I wrote the novel my drowned ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage

17 March 2016
Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... well, ‘The Unauthorised Life’. The book was initially to be issued by Faber, Hughes’s main publisher and rights holder, but in March 2014 Bate learned that the Hughes Estate, run by his widow, Carol, was withdrawing its co-operation. So he had to find a new publisher, and his right to quote Hughes’s own words was severely curtailed, resulting in long passages of paraphrase that one senses have ...

The End of British Farming

Andrew O’Hagan: British farming

22 March 2001
... my heart in my boots. For a minute or two I actually imagined I could be responsible for the spread of foot and mouth disease across Britain. On my first acquaintance with the hill farmers of the Lake District, on a plot high above Keswick, I had a view of the countryside for tens of miles. I thought of the fields that had passed underfoot, all the way back to Essex, through Dumfriesshire ...

Diary

Stephen Sedley: Judges’ Lodgings

11 November 1999
... town house. She left it to the nation, and it is now let out to visitors in all its glory by the city council; though I can’t believe that the ensuite bathroom, where the bidet has a jet resembling Lake Geneva’s, is as it was in her day. A small dinner party – all I could manage – huddled at one end of the 30-foot dining-table. Lady Astor did not have a good press in my family. My father had ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The Almanach de Gotha

2 July 1998
... King Michael I of Romania serves as Chairman of the Comité de Patronage of the Société des Amis de I’Almanach de Gotha 1998. From these pages I learn that Michael or Mihai was born to King Carol in 1921 and ‘reigned, firstly’, from 1927 to 1930, or in other words between the ages of six and nine. He was then made Crown Prince and Grand Voivode of Alba Julia, before becoming sovereign ...
23 May 2002
The Invasion Handbook 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 201 pp., £12.99, April 2002, 0 571 20915 7
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... not explain ‘pochles’, which occurs in the same line. However, ‘pobby’ means ‘swollen’ and a ‘loy’ is an Irish spade. And so on. The ‘jeddo’ turns out to be the jet d’eau in the lake at Geneva. Meanwhile the verses bearing these novelties rattle like unsprung carts over ruts. Wheat dust ‘skinks and twindles’, sledges ‘skitter and slip’. ‘There was heard the plockplock ...

Dark and Deep

Helen Vendler

4 July 1996
Robert Frost: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Constable, 424 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 09 476130 2
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Collected Poems, Prose and Plays 
by Robert Frost, edited by Richard Poirier and Mark Richardson.
Library of America, 1036 pp., $35, October 1995, 9781883011062
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... the immensely popular stage-readings; the catastrophic fates of three of the four surviving children (Marjorie died of a post-partum infection; Irma was permanently confined in an insane asylum; Carol, the only son, committed suicide); the exhaustion of Elinor, whose heart gave out in her sixties after many changes of dwelling and ten pregnancies – the last when she was 52; the final years of ...

More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren

17 September 1998
Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol​ Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... one of language. Yet the vividness and directness of her writing often come across in her memoir of the years covered by these letters, Force of Circumstance (as translated by Richard Howard), and in Carol Cosman’s version of America Day by Day. The difference between Beloved Chicago Man and The Mandarins is that Beauvoir could speak to Algren as she could to no one else. Anyone reading these ...

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