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Starting over

Malise Ruthven, 9 July 1987

Cities on a Hill 
by Frances FitzGerald.
Picador, 414 pp., £4.50, March 1987, 0 330 29845 3
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... The title of Frances FitzGerald’s new book comes from the sermon John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, delivered on board the Arabella shortly before landing in the New World in 1630. Fully conscious of the exemplary character of their enterprise, he urged his companions to walk humbly in the ways of God by remaining true to the Puritan tenets of a faith they could no longer practise in England ...

Good as boys

Penelope Fitzgerald, 15 August 1991

The Best Type of Girl: A History of the Girls’ Independent Schools 
by Gillian Avery.
Deutsch, 410 pp., £20, January 1991, 0 233 98642 1
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There’s something about a convent girl 
edited by Jackie Bennett and Rosemary Forgan.
Virago, 217 pp., £4.99, January 1991, 1 85381 308 7
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... of Gillian Avery’s book are the distant, half-familiar figures of extraordinary women, pioneers: Frances Buss of North London Collegiate, Dorothea Beale of Cheltenham, Frances Dove of Wycombe Abbey, Lydia Rous of The Mount. ‘A pupil at The Mount remembered saying loudly: “Well, I hate her.” A voice outside said ...

Dropping Their Eggs

Patrick Wright: The history of bombing, 23 August 2001

A History of Bombing 
by Sven Lindqvist, translated by Linda Haverty Rugg.
Granta, 233 pp., £14.99, May 2001, 1 86207 415 1
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The Bomber War: Arthur Harris and the Allied Bomber Offensive 1939-45 
by Robin Niellands.
Murray, 448 pp., £25, February 2001, 0 7195 5637 6
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Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War 
by Frances FitzGerald.
Touchstone, 592 pp., $17, March 2001, 0 7432 0023 3
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... of modern warfare, Lindqvist’s book belongs on the same shelf as Way Out There in the Blue, Frances FitzGerald’s brilliant study of Star Wars and the ‘high narrative gloss’ that continues to attend its development. When the Strategic Defence Initiative was launched by Reagan in March 1983, it was a technologically impossible idea: ‘a ...

He had it all

Alex Harvey: Fitzgerald’s Decade, 5 July 2018

Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald 
by David S. Brown.
Harvard, 424 pp., £21.95, May 2017, 978 0 674 50482 0
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‘I’d Die for You’ and Other Lost Stories 
by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Scribner, 384 pp., £9.99, April 2018, 978 1 4711 6473 6
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... Scott Fitzgerald​ spent his declining years in ‘a hideous town, pointed up by the insulting gardens of its rich, full of the human spirit at a new low of debasement’. Hollywood, he complained in 1940, was ‘a dump, in the human sense of the word. Everywhere there is … either corruption or indifference.’ He used to wear a dark topcoat and homburg; ‘his outfit and pallor,’ his secretary Frances Kroll recalled, ‘were alien to the style and warmth of Southern California – as if he were not at home here, had just stopped off and was dressed to leave on the next train ...

This is the new communism

Mark Philip Bradley: Modern Vietnam, 15 December 2016

The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam 
by Christopher Goscha.
Allen Lane, 634 pp., £30, June 2016, 978 1 84614 310 6
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... past are shrouded in myth. One is Vietnam as a ‘little China’, the view that anchored Frances FitzGerald’s still widely read 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning Fire in the Lake. FitzGerald borrowed from French Orientalists who lamented the ‘vulgarisation of Chinese civilisation’ in Vietnam. Centuries of what ...

I dive under the covers

Sheila Heti: Mad Wives, 6 June 2013

Heroines 
by Kate Zambreno.
Semiotext(e), 309 pp., £12.95, November 2012, 978 1 58435 114 6
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... the possibility of wife-and (and-writer, and-genius): the early 20th century. She discusses Zelda Fitzgerald and ‘Vivien(ne)’ Eliot, as well as a number of other ‘women often marginalised in the modernist memory project’, whom she calls her ‘eternal reference point … an invisible community’. Heroines is narrated by a voice that is never ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... great test of all who believe in coincidence, that on 22 November 1963, at the moment when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was being struck by at least one bullet, Desmond FitzGerald was meeting AMLASH in Paris. FitzGerald, the father of the more famous ...

New Women

Patricia Beer, 17 July 1980

The Odd Women 
by George Gissing.
Virago, 336 pp., £2.50, May 1980, 0 86068 140 8
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The Beth Book 
by Sarah Grand.
Virago, 527 pp., £3.50, January 1980, 0 86068 088 6
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... equally great Count Fosco in the book but also such men of the readership as Swinburne and Edward Fitzgerald, who named his new boat after her. It was difficult for the Rhoda Nunns of fiction to follow her. But Marian Halcombe had no need to work. Though not rich herself, she was half-sister to an heiress. Rhoda Nunn has to work, and this gives Gissing’s ...

No snarling

Fatema Ahmed: P.G. Wodehouse, 3 November 2005

Wodehouse 
by Joseph Connolly.
Haus, 192 pp., £9.99, September 2004, 1 904341 68 3
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Wodehouse: A Life 
by Robert McCrum.
Penguin, 542 pp., £8.99, September 2005, 0 14 100048 1
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... many Pekinese dogs. Since Wodehouse’s death in 1975 there have been two authorised biographies. Frances Donaldson’s, published in 1982, is warmer about the man than the work. She was a schoolfriend of Wodehouse’s beloved stepdaughter, Leonora. But she was a surprising choice for official biographer after her remarks in a 1967 memoir of Evelyn ...

Bristling with Diligence

James Wood: A.S. Byatt, 8 October 2009

The Children’s Book 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 617 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 7011 8389 9
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... will await the inevitable arrival of Wells and Shaw, the Cambridge Neo-Pagans, Rupert Brooke and Frances Cornford, the Cambridge Apostles and so on. (Byatt’s novels always seem destined to visit Cambridge University.) But the book’s emphasis on the plastic arts, on theatre design, the manipulation of puppets and marionettes, and above all on pottery, is ...

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