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Not Just Yet

Frank Kermode: The Literature of Old Age, 13 December 2007

The Long Life 
by Helen Small.
Oxford, 346 pp., £25, December 2007, 978 0 19 922993 2
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... young know nothing directly about old age and their inquiries into the topic must be done blind. Helen Small, for instance, pronounces with impressive youthful verve and authority on a condition that must still, in a sense, be a closed book to her. Revealing her own age (42), she laments the dearth of serious philosophical reflection on the subject, and ...


Terry Eagleton: The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Tóibín, 14 October 1999

The Blackwater Lightship 
by Colm Tóibín.
Picador, 273 pp., £15, September 1999, 0 330 38985 8
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... This novel, by contrast, could be described as Southside realism, at least in its opening pages. Helen O’Doherty and her husband Hugh live with their small sons on the middle-class south side of Dublin, though Hugh is an Irish-language enthusiast from Donegal and Helen comes from ...


Helen Farish, 27 August 2015

... do, but I pre-date the Greeks. I used to describe a limestone plateau where dusty snakes and small owls lived with a people from whose mouths emerged my extensive family. I miss the sound of my original kin as I muck in with this new crowd, biting my tongue when I hear two or even three words stuck together to describe skies my first family got ...

The Subtleties of Frank Kermode

Michael Wood, 17 December 2009

... on age, even though he had just turned 88 when the last piece in this volume – his review of Helen Small’s The Long Life – appeared in the LRB. This is the highpoint of the book, not because it ends anything or even gives us the sense of an ending, but because it is so full of the grace of Kermode’s attention to the process of ...
... in a meadow gathering flowers                           twirling her own small sunny hours.                           When up rides a man on black horses.                           Up rides a man in a black hat.                           Up rides a man with a black letter to ...

The Cow Bells of Kitale

Patrick Collinson: The Selwyn Affair, 5 June 2003

... In a court in western Kenya, on 13 July 1934, Major Geoffrey Selwyn and his wife, Helen, were jointly charged with the murder of a ‘native’. Geoffrey Selwyn, my father-in-law, died before the trial began. Proceedings continued in his absence, and my children’s grandmother was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to prison ...

Did she go willingly?

Marina Warner: Helen of Troy, 7 October 2010

Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood 
by Laurie Maguire.
Wiley-Blackwell, 280 pp., £55, April 2009, 978 1 4051 2634 2
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... with a political agenda. Homer could assume that his audience knew the outline of the myth of Helen of Troy, and that in consequence he didn’t need to lay it all out. But perhaps there never was a consistent and complete version of any myth, one that you could walk all the way around and find that everything matched and agreed from every angle. In the ...

This is how they break you

Elizabeth Lowry: Dinaw Mengestu, 5 June 2014

All Our Names 
by Dinaw Mengestu.
Sceptre, 256 pp., £17.99, June 2014, 978 1 4447 9377 2
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... with the unfolding story of his new life in America. The second strand of the novel, set in the small Midwestern town of Laurel, is told by Helen, the white social worker who is assigned to look after him. To Helen, the stateless Isaac – whose folder contains only ‘a single loose ...

Things happen all the time

James Wood, 8 May 1997

Selected Stories 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 412 pp., £16.99, November 1996, 0 7011 6521 9
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... a great realist, and her powers come from her sense of the way in which communities – especially small, socially anxious, limited ones – construct and guard their reality. She has lived for many years in a rural town in Ontario. I once visited it. It is near water (Lake Huron) but seems landlocked: swamped by land, by the flat lakes of corn that surround ...


Susan McKay: Jean McConville, 19 December 2013

... see how tall he was. ‘They used to joke that 12 was their lucky number,’ their daughter Helen McKendry told me. ‘He was 12 years older than her, and 12 inches taller, and she had 12 pregnancies.’ Jean McConville was ‘disappeared’ by the IRA in December 1972. Few remember her life. Even the memories of her children, most of whom were very ...

Sam, Caroline, Janet, Stella, Len, Helen and Bob

Susan Pedersen: Mass Observation, 21 September 2017

Seven Lives from Mass Observation: Britain in the Late 20th Century 
by James Hinton.
Oxford, 207 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 19 878713 6
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... Wartime Lives makes an irrefutable case for the importance of the diaries, but they form only a small slice of the MO repository and tell us almost nothing about the organisation itself. Hinton’s next book, The Mass Observers: A History 1937-49 (2013), a bracing narrative of MO’s founding, practices, struggles and first demise, provides that ...

The dead are all around us

Hilary Mantel: Helen Duncan, 10 May 2001

Hellish Nell: Last of Britain’s Witches 
by Malcolm Gaskill.
Fourth Estate, 402 pp., £15.99, April 2001, 1 84115 109 2
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... person tried and convicted at the war-damaged Old Bailey was a stout and ailing Scotswoman called Helen Duncan, whom few people loved and many exploited. She was not a witch in any popular sense of the word; she did not fly, wear a pointed hat or have congress with the devil, and neither she nor her followers imagined that she did. She was a witch only in the ...

Somebody reading

Barbara Everett, 21 June 1984

The Odes of Keats 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 330 pp., £15.70, February 1984, 0 674 63075 0
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... original is its image of a young person wholly absorbed in a poem, one chilly spring evening in a small country town, where she sits by the window in an old house trying to catch the dying light With forehead ’gainst the window pane ...   All was silent, all was gloom, Abroad and in the homely room;   Down she sat, poor cheated soul, And struck a lamp ...

The Suitcase: Part Three

Frances Stonor Saunders, 10 September 2020

... memory of the packing up of our home, just that I was standing on the pavement outside holding a small, colourful box whose lid closed with a tiny brass latch, into which I had put IMPORTANT THINGS: a charm in the form of a watermill whose wheel actually turned, a bright red gobstopper (illegal), a polished stone egg. I was reluctant to let the box go ...

At Kettle’s Yard

Eleanor Birne: The Reopening, 22 March 2018

... Morocco and France; and while working at the Tate in the 1920s and early 1930s, he and his wife, Helen, had lived in Hampstead, where Braque, Naum Gabo, Diaghilev and Nijinksky were among their many visitors – along with artist friends from closer to home, particularly Ben and Winifred Nicholson. In 1956, the Edes returned to England and Jim started ...

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