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Paulie lops it off

Elisa Segrave, 2 December 1993

The Wives of Bath 
by Susan Swan.
Granta, 237 pp., £8.99, October 1993, 0 14 014081 6
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... I met Susan Swan, the author of this novel about a girls’ boarding-school, in a women’s dormitory on a holistic holiday in Greece. Apart from Susan, there was Tessa, a potter from Brixton, a German called Ingrid and Marjorie, an aromatherapist from Liverpool. Susan was a cut above the rest of us. She had been invited as a teacher of creative writing and had then been given the special status of literary consultant ...


Elisa Segrave: On the Pier at Key West, 18 April 1996

... my God, how long have I got?’ I ask desperately. Judith replies: ‘I don’t know, Elisa.’ She points out that I’m not very fat. Irving returns and walks me home. He’s a very kind man. When I get back I burst into tears at the thought of myself as a very fat post-sexual woman. I don’t sleep till after one. The next morning, I phone a ...

Remembering Janet Hobhouse

Elisa Segrave, 11 March 1993

... Janet Hobhouse, whom I first met in a street in Paris in 1974, was someone who inspired strong emotions. Being with her was like being on a roller-coaster, an exhilarating, intense, even frightening experience – a roller-coaster you often wanted to get off. She was direct, sometimes to the point of insensitivity, and couldn’t understand why other people weren’t as direct as she was ...


Elisa Segrave: Revved Up on Solpadeine, 22 July 1993

... Saturday. I’m in a ward in the Charing Cross Hospital with Bertha, another woman with breast cancer. All the lymph glands under my right arm have been removed. Bertha, who’s 60 and lives near Heathrow Airport, is talking to a woman with hennaed hair who was bitten by her own corgi, or her daughter’s corgi, I’m not sure which. The corgis are father and son ...

‘Did that man touch our car?’

Elisa Segrave, 17 October 1996

... My name is Nicholas. I am 11 years old. I like plants because they have a different life to humans, and they are attractive. They can’t defend themselves and, instead of having blood, they have chlorophyll. They can’t move. They grow towards the light. I feel proud when my plants do well. I am afraid of dragonflies. I am afraid of jellyfish. I wish blackfly would leave my plants alone ...


Elisa Segrave: The bride wore fur, 30 November 1995

... I got married in January in my dead grandmother’s fur coat. I had to take it to the furrier afterwards as the seams had split. The furrier thought that the soft chestnut fur was dyed ermine and said it wasn’t worth getting it repaired; it had split too many times before. The coat probably hadn’t been kept cold enough during the summers, he explained ...


Elisa Segrave: Is this what it’s like to be famous?, 11 May 1995

... My first book is now published. It’s a tragi-comedy about breast cancer. I’ve just got back from America, where I was carrying copies of it around in a beach-bag, trying to sell it to a New York publisher. In the Random House building, there were over twenty elevators, and a publisher on almost every floor. I ricocheted up and down, darting into offices without appointments, leaving my book like a cuckoo laying eggs ...

‘Cancer Girl’

Mary Beard, 6 July 1995

The Diary of a Breast 
by Elisa Segrave.
Faber, 287 pp., £9.99, April 1995, 0 571 17446 9
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... are not about cancer at all. They are about being female and forty, and about men behaving badly. Elisa Segrave’s Diary of a Breast – the story of ‘a nine-month struggle against cancer’ – is one of the more engaging examples of this genre. Designer cancer always seems to bring with it a compulsion to write of the illness with a certain detached ...

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