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John Bayley, 7 August 1986

No, I’m not afraid 
by Irina Ratushinskaya, translated by David McDuff.
Bloodaxe, 142 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 906427 95 9
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Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time 
by Martin Gilbert.
Macmillan, 467 pp., £14.95, April 1986, 0 333 39504 2
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The Russian Orthodox Church: A Contemporary History 
by Jane Ellis.
Croom Helm, 531 pp., £27.50, April 1986, 0 7099 1567 5
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... refusal to fall back on religion as an alternative authority is both moving and impressive. From Jane Ellis’s scholarly and revealing work on the contemporary history of the Russian Orthodox Church we learn that the Ukraine has by far the largest percentage, in the USSR, of Orthodox believers and worshippers. Irina Ratushinskaya is not one of them, at ...

Showers of Hats

Robert Baird: ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’, 29 March 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, March 2017, 978 1 4088 7174 4
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... Eddie and Betsy Baron, a poor, dirty couple who can barely speak a sentence without expletives; Jane Ellis, whose three daughters appear in ‘gelatinous orbs floating about her person’; and the Bachelors, a trio of young men who drift overhead, dispensing showers of hats. Irritable, sarcastic and often ridiculous, the ghosts joke and jibe at one ...

Pooh to London

Pat Rogers, 22 December 1983

The Other Side of the Fire 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 7156 1809 1
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London Tales 
edited by Julian Evans.
Hamish Hamilton, 309 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 241 11123 4
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Londoners 
by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 240 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 413 49350 4
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Good Friends, Just 
by Anne Leaton.
Chatto, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2710 4
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... Against the ruins of love and idealism, Alice Thomas Ellis shores up the fragmentary consolations of art. Her books are beautifully fashioned, tailored, cut from superior cloth: you’re aware of the chunks from the fabric of experience that she has rejected, and her characters know just enough of the outside world not to be able to make sense of themselves ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flirtation, Seduction and Betrayal, 5 September 2002

... A distantish relation of mine, R. Ellis Roberts, was, for a few years from 1928, literary editor of the New Statesman, and a relatively undistinguished one at that. Kingsley Martin described Roberts (in Father Figures, his first volume of autobiography) as the ‘only writer on the NS whose contributions I could not stomach – I found his writing intolerable ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... like her most wanted; she answered, ‘Age and experience.’ I asked the next (Emily, afterwards Ellis Bell) what I had best do with her brother Branwell, who was sometimes a naughty boy; she answered, ‘Reason with him, and when he won’t listen to reason, whip him.’ I asked Branwell what was the best way of knowing the difference between the intellect ...

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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... than men do. Other things being equal, readers of the same sex will be closer to the meaning of Jane Austen, for instance, than their male counterparts. Where there is a choice, women’s commentary is given priority in the attached bibliographical notes. They know best. This Companion is at least two things. Primarily it is a reference book, a convenient ...

Reluctant Psychopath

Colin MacCabe, 7 October 1993

My Idea of Fun 
by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 309 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 7475 1591 3
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... no’ is the honest reply. If you thought that it couldn’t get more disgusting than Bret Easton Ellis then you were wrong. The book opens with a banal question at a London dinner party: ‘What’s your idea of fun?’ The narrator, Ian Wharton, makes all too clear that his answer to the question ups the ante on American Psycho. Within two pages he is ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... difficulties start with her struggle to locate the material. Her ‘100 good women writers before Jane Austen’ are an arbitrary bunch, many obtained from a hacker’s job on Janet Todd’s Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660-1800. Spender calls this a ‘Dictionary of Women Novelists’ – a significant blunder. Todd covers ...

Homo Sexualis

Michael Ignatieff, 4 March 1982

Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 
by Jeffrey Weeks.
Longman, 306 pp., £11, October 1981, 0 582 48333 6
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Sexual Preference: Its Development in Men and Women 
by Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Kiefer Hammersmith.
Indiana, 242 pp., £9, October 1981, 9780253166739
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Pornography and Silence 
by Susan Griffin.
Women’s Press, 277 pp., £4.75, October 1981, 0 7043 3877 7
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The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1 
by Michel Foucault, translated by Robert Hurley.
Penguin, 176 pp., £2.25, May 1981, 0 14 022299 5
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... as one of tightening and intensifying patriarchal domination. This is the temptation to which Mary Jane Sherfey succumbs in The Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality, where ‘the rise of modern civilisation’ is accounted for as the ‘suppression of the inordinate cyclical drive of women’. Jeffrey Weeks argues that these teleologies of oppression have ...

Fear among the Teacups

Dinah Birch: Ellen Wood, 8 February 2001

East Lynne 
by Ellen Wood, edited by Andrew Maunder.
Broadview, 779 pp., £7.95, October 2000, 1 55111 234 5
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... exposed as a doubly-married man. But bigamous marriages had menaced the innocent long before then. Jane Eyre had a narrow escape in 1847. Some of the zeal with which novelists seized on the theme grows out of the instability, social and geographical, of the period. This was the age of the railway, which made cheap mass transport available for the first ...

Larks

Patricia Craig, 19 September 1985

But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... discarded the expertise she’d been cultivating since 1950. The second part of her Diary of Jane Somers is an exceptionally trite and tiresome piece of work. The Good Terrorist, however, shows a resurgence of her customary boldness and diligence, and reminds us how purely readable this author can be, whenever she chooses. The impulse towards irony is ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels, 19 August 1999

Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... would, if asked, tell us many little particulars about the subsequent career of her people,’ Jane Austen’s nephew wrote in his Memoir of his aunt. In this traditionary way we learned that Miss Steele never succeeded in catching the Doctor; that Kitty Bennet was satisfactorily married to a clergyman near Pemberley, while Mary obtained nothing higher ...

Short is sharp

John Sutherland, 3 February 1983

Firebird 2 
edited by T.J. Binding.
Penguin, 284 pp., £2.95, January 1983, 0 14 006337 4
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Bech is Back 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 195 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 0 233 97512 8
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The Pangs of Love 
by Jane Gardam.
Hamish Hamilton, 156 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 241 10942 6
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The Man Who Sold Prayers 
by Margaret Creal.
Dent, 198 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 9780460045926
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Happy as a Dead Cat 
by Jill Miller.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, January 1983, 9780704338982
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... youngest contributors, such as James Campbell and Alan Hollinghurst, and the less youthful A.E. Ellis. Each here performs the same narrative trick, telling some resonant or portentous tale through more or less awkward or impercipient or blindly obsessive observers. In Hollinghurst’s ‘A Thieving Boy’ adoptive parents of a gifted, wayward child follow ...

Come and Stay

Arnold Rattenbury, 27 November 1997

England and the Octopus 
by Clough Williams-Ellis.
CPRE, 220 pp., £10.95, December 1996, 0 946044 50 3
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Clough Williams-EllisRIBA Drawings Monograph No 2 
by Richard Haslam.
Academy, 112 pp., £24.95, March 1996, 1 85490 430 2
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Clough Williams-EllisThe Architect of Portmeirion 
by Jonah Jones.
Seren, 204 pp., £9.95, December 1996, 1 85411 166 3
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... Sir Clough Williams-Ellis is best known nowadays as the owner-architect of Portmeirion, the hotel he built as a partly cliff-hanging, partly tree-nestled village on a North Wales coastal estuary, adding to it building by building across some fifty years. Always astonishing, some think beautiful, it enjoyed its greatest publicity as the setting for the cult TV series, The Prisoner ...

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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... men and their modes, even to the extent of calling themselves George Eliot, or Currer, Ellis or Acton Bell. (Odd that the imitators should be inimitable.) No applause for authors laying claim to a tradition, and working within it: just a demand that gender should proclaim itself all over the prose. (Try applying this argument to writing by men, and ...

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