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Zea the Siberian Tigress

Emma Tennant, 3 May 1984

... paces alone in her garden. An aging favourite, she knows the ritual of cleaning-time, the kiss of key in gate and cub led off, moon-eyed, to the far compound. By the pool, the patch of mud that never dries, she puts on speed. July-dark trees close round keepers walking in formation. It’s airless. The sun’s swaddled in white, as if a snow-god, the God who made Siberia, found on abandoning the crude paintbox of the taiga for the south’s half-tones, that he was bored here too and pegged out his blanket to sleep on the hills of Kent, garden of England ...

Smart Girls

Emma Tennant, 17 July 1980

‘Clever Gretchen’ and Other Forgotten Folktales 
by Alison Luire.
Heinemann, 128 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 434 94899 3
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... Clever Gretchen’ and Other Forgotten Tales sets out to right a balance heavily weighted during the age of the great Victorian collectors of fairy-tales, ballads and lore. In that age, of the vapours and Mrs Beeton’s steam puddings, it was considered unlikely that a young woman, hearing of an attractive young man in some distant part of the world, would go off immediately in search of him – or that a judge’s wife would turn from the suet to the lawsuit and make a better job of it than her husband ...


Emma Tennant, 20 August 1981

Lenare: The Art of Society Photography 1924-1977 
by Nicholas de Ville and Anthony Haden-Guest.
Allen Lane, 136 pp., £15, May 1981, 0 7139 1418 1
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... Lenare was founded in 1924 by Leonard Green, whose portrait baptises this collection of society photographs. Facing him is an Unknown Woman, captured at the War’s end in an inverted pigeon’s nest and furs: she was presumably the first and certainly the last unknown woman to confront his lens. Lenare wanted fame and wealth to pose for him, and they did ...

The German in the Wood

Emma Tennant, 6 December 1984

... I don’t think my father ever saw Bella. She was small, so small that her eyes and surprisingly large beaky nose came only just over the top of the kitchen table. Her chin – and a very slack mouth that muttered and dribbled in a kind of singsong language I could sometimes understand – were lost to view, below the rim of the thick, much-scoured, gargantuan table ...

A Visit to My Uncle

Emma Tennant, 31 July 1997

... Pamela, my grandmother, is in her garden. The photograph shows a woman in the cloche hat and low, belted dress of the early Twenties; the face is smooth, and the jaw more pronounced than in the dreamy pictures of the years before the war. The sun is shining: whoever holds the camera is a favourite, neither a stranger nor a threat. Behind Pamela lies the mock village green she created when the manor at Wilsford was built for her by my grandfather in those years, so distant yet still so near, before the death of Bim ...

Bananas Book

Eric Korn, 22 November 1979

Saturday Night Reader 
edited by Emma Tennant.
W.H. Allen, 246 pp., £5.95
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... Emma Tennant, former editor of the magazine Bananas, has produced a shiny package in the manner of an inter-war weekend book, but in a contemporary idiom to which no one can be indifferent.Am I missing an extra layer of irony here or there? The sense of being mocked by initiates is heightened by the slow-dawning certainty that the Marcus Gutteridge talked to by John Mortimer is a made-up person, a chimera of all those doddering reminiscers (‘Aldous was extremely short-sighted’) whom young literary journalists feel obliged to interview ...

Boulevard Brogues

Rosemary Hill: Having your grouse and eating it, 13 May 1999

Girlitude: A Memoir of the Fifties and Sixties 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 224 pp., £15.99, April 1999, 0 224 05952 1
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... In the 15 years her memoir covers Emma Tennant transformed herself. The poised, if slightly stolid-looking debutante of 1955 was, by the end of the Sixties, a three-times-married, chronically hard-up, left-wing novelist. There was little more to wish for. Given the temper of the times and the Tennant family’s established bohemian tendencies it was not such a surprising trajectory ...

Auld Lang Syne

Graham Hough, 1 December 1983

Sebastian or Ruling Passions 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 202 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13445 9
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Woman Beware Woman 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 176 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 224 02164 8
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Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Picador, 159 pp., £2.50, September 1983, 0 330 28074 0
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Blue Rise 
by Rebecca Hill.
Joseph, 296 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 7181 2372 7
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Here to get my baby out of jail 
by Louise Shivers.
Collins, 141 pp., £6.95, October 1983
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... contemporary fiction. One advantage of writing short books is that you can write a lot of them. Emma Tennant’s last novel Queen of Stones appeared only a year ago. It now reappears in paperback. On the archetypal theme of lost children, it combines the factual and circumstantial with vision and nightmare – a newspaper cutting, a social worker’s ...

Costa del Pym

Nicholas Spice, 4 July 1985

Crampton Hodnet 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 333 39129 2
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Foreign Land 
by Jonathan Raban.
Harvill, 352 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 00 222918 8
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Black Marina 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 157 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 9780571134670
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... that this process may already be under way. Jonathan Raban’s Foreign Land and Black Marina by Emma Tennant are, from the formal standpoint, very different kinds of novel, but they share, quite strikingly, an un-English pre-occupation with the problem for the individual of belonging in the modern state. Jonathan Raban is a distinguished travel writer ...

That which is spoken

Marina Warner, 8 November 1990

The Virago Book of Fairy-Tales 
edited by Angela Carter.
Virago, 242 pp., £12.99, October 1990, 1 85381 205 6
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Sisters and Strangers: A Moral Tale 
by Emma Tennant.
Grafton, 184 pp., £12.95, July 1990, 0 246 13429 1
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... a writer of fiction. Salman Rushdie has written Haroun, an allegory in the form of a fairy-tale; Emma Tennant also strikes a deliberate nursery note with Sisters and Strangers, with Grandmother Dummer (dumber than a goose?) as narrator and two little girls as her audience, learning from her the pitfalls and pleasures that await them when they are ...

Edgar and Emma

John Sutherland, 20 February 1986

World’s Fair 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Joseph, 275 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 7181 2685 8
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The Adventures of Robina 
edited by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 165 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 571 13796 2
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... as it is, World’s Fair is the best thing of Doctorow’s I’ve read. Boiled down, Emma Tennant’s Adventures of Robina goes like this. The red-haired and beautiful heroine belongs to a rich family, but is herself possessed only of a measly £25,000 which has been locked up in a trust fund. Robina’s parents have mysteriously ...

Women’s Fiction

Margaret Walters, 13 October 1988

The Beginning of Spring 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 187 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 00 223261 8
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A Wedding of Cousins 
by Emma Tennant.
Viking, 167 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 670 81502 0
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The Skeleton in the Cupboard 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 138 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 0 7156 2269 2
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... Frank’s marriage, about his future, and about the great changes coming to the country he loves. Emma Tennant’s new novel, too, offers a comic vision of a country in a state of change: Fifties England, tired and shabby after the war, and looking back, nostalgically, to a more gracious and settled world, is spinning, willy-nilly, towards the Sixties. A ...

Down and Out in London and Amis

Zachary Leader, 22 June 1989

Ripley Bogle 
by Robert McLiam Wilson.
Deutsch, 273 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 233 98392 9
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The Burnt House 
by Adam Lively.
Simon and Schuster, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 671 69999 7
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Two Women of London: The Strange Case of Ms Jekyll and Mrs Hyde 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 121 pp., £10.99, June 1989, 0 571 15242 2
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The Magic Drum 
by Emma Tennant.
Viking, 142 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 670 82556 5
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... even Aidan, whose strangeness is monotonously registered. Finally, the book is sloppily edited. Emma Tennant’s Two Women of London, the more interesting of her two new novels, is a clever updating of the Jekyll and Hyde story – which makes it a sort of companion piece to The Bad Sister (1978), itself an updating of Hogg’s Confessions of a ...


Patricia Beer, 8 November 1979

The Intruder 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hodder, 286 pp., £5.95
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Mother Can You Hear Me? 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 269 pp., £5.90
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Treasures of Time 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 199 pp., £4.95
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Wild Nights 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 134 pp., £4.50
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... suitable for all the contradictory fantasies and hallucinations that the author wishes to convey. Emma Tennant’s Wild Nights is the most ambitious and the most exciting of these four novels. It gives us reality through the five senses of a child narrator, and is not so much fantasy as a witch’s eye view of the world. ‘I waited for the night journey ...

Lucky Brrm

John Sutherland, 12 March 1992

Brrm! Brrm! 
by Clive James.
Cape, 160 pp., £12.99, November 1991, 0 224 03226 7
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Saint Maybe 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 337 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7011 3787 8
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by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 140 pp., £12.99, March 1992, 9780571142637
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... of a novel – a character who implicitly upbraids his creator for making so much fuss about him. Emma Tennant’s 28-year-long writing career has produced a dazzling variety of fiction. But all her work is marked by a fascination with how traditional literary forms, ideas and topoi can be stretched, pulled and tinkered with. Faustine aligns itself with ...

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