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Plain girl’s revenge made flesh

Hilary Mantel, 23 April 1992

Madonna Unauthorised 
by Christopher Andersen.
Joseph, 279 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 7181 3536 9
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... Christopher Andersen’s book begins, as it should, with the prodigal, the violent, the gross. But what do you expect? Madonna’s wedding was different from other people’s. The plans were made in secrecy, and backed by armed force. ‘Even the caterer ... was kept in the dark until the last minute.’ You also, you may protest, have been to weddings where the caterer has seemed to be taken by surprise ...

‘I am not dead’

Christopher Prendergast: H.C. Andersen, 8 March 2001

Hans Christian AndersenThe Life of a Storyteller 
by Jackie Wullschlager.
Allen Lane, 506 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 7139 9325 1
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... Can it be, as Jackie Wullschlager maintains, that in the 1840s and 1850s Hans Christian Andersen was ‘the most famous writer in Europe’, and that ‘two centuries after his birth Andersen is still not appreciated as the world-class author that he undoubtedly was, as representative of the European Romantic spirit as Balzac or Victor Hugo’? These are grand claims and, if they’re true, we might well use this lively and informative biography to acquaint ourselves further with Andersen’s life and work ...

Kermode’s Changing Times

P.N. Furbank, 7 March 1991

The Uses of Error 
by Frank Kermode.
Collins, 432 pp., £18, February 1991, 9780002154659
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... from 1967 to 1976, attracting what for us now are some very familiar names – Jonathan Culler, Christopher Norris, Annette Lavers, Stephen Heath etc – and under his guidance, we gather, they all got on extremely well, ‘preserving a tone of good humour in the midst of the most serious, even the most fierce, exchanges’. Kermode remained, as he declared ...

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