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Gavin Francis: ‘The Life Project’

1 June 2016
The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives 
by Helen Pearson.
Allen Lane, 399 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 1 84614 826 2
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... We’re doing a national study looking at thousands of children. We need more funding!’ She ordered a member of her entourage to ‘talk to this gentleman’, then pushed on to give her speech. HelenPearson makes no judgment as to whether splashing Margaret Thatcher with coffee helped Butler to get his funding. She does tell us that he spent his evenings writing begging letters to the worthies ...

Dream On

Katha Pollitt: Bringing up Babies

11 September 2003
I Don't Know How She Does It 
by Allison Pearson.
Vintage, 256 pp., £6.99, May 2003, 0 09 942838 5
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A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother 
by Rachel Cusk.
Fourth Estate, 224 pp., £6.99, July 2002, 1 84115 487 3
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The Truth about Babies: From A-Z 
by Ian Sansom.
Granta, 352 pp., £6.99, June 2003, 1 86207 575 1
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What Are Children For? 
by Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor.
Short Books, 141 pp., £6.99, January 2003, 1 904095 25 9
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The Commercialisation of Intimate Life 
by Arlie Russell Hochschild.
California, 313 pp., £32.95, May 2003, 0 520 21487 0
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... through a judicious combination of truth-telling (it’s a man’s world, and the man is a swine) and fantasy. Although both books began life as newspaper columns, it would be unfair to call Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It a working-mother version of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Pearson is a more literary writer than Helen Fielding (and almost as funny). On the other hand, both novels ...

No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell

20 October 2011
Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... of Tennyson’s long poem on the subject of female education, The Princess. It is easy now to underestimate the desperate daring of her escape to London, where, with the help of a beloved governess, Helen Rootham, she took a flat in Pembridge Mansions, Bayswater. Here she and Rootham lived on a grudging and uncertain allowance from Sir George, plus what they could earn. Thereafter, Sitwell was always ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland

11 July 1991
The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... England, the Companion portrays Schreiner’s relationships with powerful men in such a way as to suggest that she was anything but subordinate or in thrall to them: ‘she was a close friend of Karl Pearson [and] Havelock Ellis, with whom she discussed, in person and in a vast correspondence, ideas on women’s sexual and spiritual needs and their position in a socialist state.’ It sounds very ...

Fallen Women

Patricia Highsmith

21 June 1984
‘Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son’: The Story of Peter Sutcliffe 
by Gordon Burn.
Heinemann, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 434 09827 2
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... aroused’ him in the least was a teenage twin, half-English and half-East Indian and outstandingly pretty. She and her twin had recently taken to streetwalking to pick up some money. One of them, Helen Rytka, would be what the Police reckoned was the Ripper’s seventh victim. By then prostitutes had been advised to work in pairs. The Rytka sisters had instead agreed to check with each other every ...

What the Romans did

Hugh Lloyd-Jones

5 February 1987
English Classical Scholarship: Historical Reflections on Bentley, Porson and Housman 
by C.O. Brink.
James Clark, 243 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 227 67872 9
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Latin Poets and Roman Life 
by Jasper Griffin.
Duckworth, 226 pp., £24, January 1986, 0 7156 1970 5
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The Mirror of Myth: Classical Themes and Variations 
by Jasper Griffin.
Faber, 144 pp., £15, February 1986, 0 571 13805 5
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... remained, in this respect, on the fringe of Europe. Then Thomas Gataker, who turned down the Mastership of Trinity, practised critical scholarship in his commentary on Marcus Aurelius, and John Pearson, an eminent theologian, who was successively Master of Jesus, Master of Trinity and Bishop of Chester, displayed it in brilliant emendations of the text of Aeschylus. In 1662 Richard Bentley, one of ...

Little Philadelphias

Ange Mlinko: Imagism

25 March 2010
The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and the Imagists 
by Helen​ Carr.
Cape, 982 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 224 04030 3
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... confrontational style with a puce-and-black colour scheme and parallel columns of hates and loves, ‘blasted’ and ‘blessed’. The bombastic birth of Vorticism occurs more than 600 pages into Helen Carr’s Verse Revolutionaries, a ‘group biography’ which chiefly follows Ezra Pound and the Imagists during the period that inspired Virginia Woolf’s famous aperçu, ‘On or about December ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods

21 January 1999
A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... By adding one thing to my purpose nothing. But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure, Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use their treasure. In The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Helen Vendler points out that ‘the individual letters of the word “h-e-w-s” (the Quarto spelling) or “h-u-e-s” [are] in as many lines as possible’ in Sonnet 20. She also notes the ‘unique ...

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