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Out of Ottawa

John Bayley, 21 November 1991

By Heart. Elizabeth Smart: A Life 
by Rosemary Sullivan.
Lime Tree, 415 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 413 45341 3
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... times since it first appeared in the war a number of people have been riveted in this way by Elizabeth Smart’s one-off nouvelle. When the manuscript was accepted in 1941 she had wanted to call it Images of Mica, but George Barker, whom it was all about, flipped the typed pages at random and found a sentence beginning: ‘By Grand Central Station I sat ...

Female Heads

John Bayley, 27 October 1988

Woman to Woman: Female Friendship in Victorian Fiction 
by Tess Cosslett.
Harvester, 211 pp., £29.95, July 1988, 0 7108 1015 6
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Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century 
by John Mullan.
Oxford, 261 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 19 812865 7
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The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney. Vol. I: 1768-1773 
edited by Lars Troide.
Oxford, 353 pp., £45, June 1988, 9780198125815
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... honesty of that remark shows just how far, in the post-Drabble-Byatt novel, the process has gone. Elizabeth Bowen or Elizabeth Taylor ignored, in their individual ways, all idea of being ‘women novelists’, as Anita Brookner does today. However ‘feminine’ their subject-matter, they don’t approach it ...

Flings

Rosemary Hill: The Writers’ Blitz, 21 February 2013

The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War 
by Lara Feigel.
Bloomsbury, 519 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 1 4088 3044 4
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... that war with Germany was imminent and Cameron telephoned home to give his wife, the novelist Elizabeth Bowen, the news. She received it without apparent emotion and with an awkwardness of tone that made an impression on the Irish writer and occasional IRA gunman Sean O’Faolain, with whom she was in bed at the time. He made a joke about it, which ...

Did You Have Bombs?

Deborah Friedell: ‘The Other Elizabeth Taylor’, 6 August 2009

The Other Elizabeth Taylor 
by Nicola Beauman.
Persephone, 444 pp., £15, April 2009, 978 1 906462 10 9
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... Do novelists come nicer than Elizabeth Taylor? Her mother died of politeness – she developed appendicitis over Christmas, and didn’t want to interrupt the doctor’s holiday – but rather than renounce good manners on the spot, her biographer Nicola Beauman writes, Taylor ‘cared about good manners very much indeed’ to the end of her days ...
Darkness Visible 
by William Golding.
Faber, 256 pp., £4.95, January 1979, 0 571 11646 9
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... up cannot easily be demonstrated convincingly by a novelist who has planned what is to happen (Elizabeth Bowen failed at the same technique in The Heat of the Day), but at the same time the childhood of those two is given a wonderfully creepy quality, which would not be retrospectively diminished had they settled down as blameless housewives in ...

Soft Cop, Hard Cop

Seamus Deane, 19 October 1995

Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 355 pp., £18.95, May 1995, 1 85984 932 6
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... different from them. Eagleton’s reading of the so-called Anglo-Irish novel, from Edgeworth to Elizabeth Bowen, is based on this analysis, although the analysis itself comes in for a good deal of interrogation on the way. It is part of his understanding that material realities (e.g. land) are so differently understood in the British and the Irish ...

Our Boys

John Bayley, 28 November 1996

Emily Tennyson 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 716 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 571 96554 7
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... remark. It takes us straight out of Tennyson country into the land of Ivy Compton-Burnett. Or Elizabeth Bowen, or Elizabeth Taylor. Mutual marital embarrassment – how un-Victorian and un-Tennysonian – is one of the little things those novelists are so good at conveying. The most absorbing aspect of Ann ...

Thank God for Betty

Tessa Hadley: Jane Gardam, 11 March 2010

The Man in the Wooden Hat 
by Jane Gardam.
Chatto, 213 pp., £14.99, September 2009, 978 0 7011 7798 0
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... behind. But the novels also belong to an important tradition of English writers, mostly women – Elizabeth Bowen and Elizabeth Taylor and Rumer Godden and Penelope Fitzgerald among them – whose subject is the old world of class and empire, and the systems of education and intricate cultural codes that supported ...

Separate Development

Patricia Craig, 10 December 1987

The Female Form 
by Rosalind Miles.
Routledge, 227 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 7102 1008 6
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Feminism and Poetry 
by Jan Montefiore.
Pandora, 210 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 86358 162 5
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Nostalgia and Sexual Difference 
by Janice Doane and Devon Hodges.
Methuen, 169 pp., £20, June 1987, 9780416015317
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Reading Woman 
by Mary Jacobus.
Methuen, 316 pp., £8.95, November 1987, 0 416 92460 3
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The New Feminist Criticism 
edited by Elaine Showalter.
Virago, 403 pp., £11.95, March 1986, 0 86068 722 8
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Reviewing the Reviews 
Journeyman, 104 pp., £4.50, June 1987, 1 85172 007 3Show More
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... entailed a continuous viewpoint, which happened to be that of a woman. Then there’s the case of Elizabeth Bowen, whose flair for social comedy and its concomitant, oblique social criticism, the author of The Female Form seems to disregard. Bowen, whose characteristic tone is amiably sardonic, is more or less lumped ...

Mrs G

John Bayley, 11 March 1993

Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 690 pp., £20, February 1993, 0 571 15182 5
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... She understands remarkably well the ‘state of the nation’ idiom that came naturally to Elizabeth Gaskell, as it increasingly did to many Victorian writers, and which made her so popular with a growing class of thoughtful and responsible readers. This idiom has made a comeback today, and is often to be heard in the higher political correctness of ...

Dry Eyes

John Bayley, 5 December 1991

Jump and Other Stories 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 257 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1020 2
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Wilderness Tips 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 247 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 7475 1019 9
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... stories in particular remind me of those by an expert in the art from a previous generation, Elizabeth Bowen. ‘Wilderness Tips’, which is about a nice family at their lakeside holiday home, and the city interloper who has married among them, would have specially pleased the older artist. The daughters of the house all have matching names ...

One for the road

Ian Hamilton, 21 March 1991

Memoirs 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 346 pp., £16.99, March 1991, 0 09 174533 0
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... vigilance, with protecting his own turf. The writers he likes pose little or no threat – Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Bowen, Anthony Powell: either safely senior or safely underrated by the mob. Philip Larkin used to exhibit the same tendency when asked to name his lineup: Barbara Pym, Stevie ...
Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of ‘Horizon’ 
by Michael Shelden.
Hamish Hamilton, 254 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12647 9
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Coastwise Lights 
by Alan Ross.
Collins Harvill, 254 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 00 271767 0
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William Plomer 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 19 212243 6
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... of Powell’s account, nor does he quote the memorably bitchy but somehow reassuring judgment of Elizabeth Bowen that Jean Connolly was really ‘a big soft crook’. Without extenuating her husband, it suggests that she was not really cast for the role of victim. He liked women who were good at looking after him, but also good at looking after ...

Mid-Century Male

Christopher Glazek: Edmund White, 19 July 2012

Jack Holmes and His Friend 
by Edmund White.
Bloomsbury, 390 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 1 4088 0579 4
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... storytellers like Robert Stone and Joyce Carol Oates. He got mugged by realism. He realised that Elizabeth Bowen is just as good as Virginia Woolf but without the ‘affected prose style’, and that the selling of high art is ‘just one more form of commercialism’. The break came when he was assigned to review a collection by Isaac Bashevis ...

Pour a stiff drink

Tessa Hadley: Elizabeth Jane Howard, 6 February 2014

All Change 
by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Mantle, 573 pp., £18.99, November 2013, 978 0 230 74307 6
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... Elizabeth Jane Howard had been a novelist for forty years before she published The Light Years, the first volume of the Cazalet chronicles, in 1990. The fifth and final volume, All Change, was published in 2013, and she died in January this year, aged ninety. Her stepson Martin Amis advised her to embark on the Cazalet books, when she was hesitating between possibilities ...

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