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Orphans

Joan Aiken, 17 July 1980

... Little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue An’ the lampwick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo, An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray, An’ the lightning-bugs in dew is all squenched away – You better mind yer parents and yer teachers fond and dear An’ cherish them ’at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear, An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ’at clusters all about Er the Gobble-uns’ll git you, ef you don’t watch out! James Whitcomb Riley, who wrote the above embarrassing and disgusting verse, was, of course, voicing what was, in the 19th century, considered a very proper and creditable sentiment ...

Mary Swann’s Way

Danny Karlin, 27 September 1990

Jane Fairfax 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 252 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 575 04889 1
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Lady’s Maid 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 536 pp., £13.95, July 1990, 0 7011 3574 3
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Mary Swann 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 313 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 1 872180 02 7
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... for the imitator. But Jane Austen is, in fact, notoriously hard to ‘do’ convincingly. Joan Aiken (their names are horribly homophonic – could this have given her the idea?) is the author of Mansfield Revisited, which seems to have been successful enough to persuade her to try the market again. I have only ever read one such work, the ...

Other People

Dinah Birch, 6 July 1989

The Middleman, and Other Stories 
by Bharati Mukherjee.
Virago, 197 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 1 85381 058 4
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The Burning Boys 
by John Fuller.
Chatto, 128 pp., £10.95, June 1989, 9780701134648
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Termination Rock 
by Gillian Freeman.
Pandora, 182 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 04 440352 6
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Blackground 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 254 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 575 04502 7
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... chance to begin again. Not every novelist chooses to probe the deepest shadows of our inner lives. Joan Aiken’s robust Blackground deals with guilty secrets, greed, betrayal and murder. The story begins with the sober portrayal of a slow death. Nevertheless, it is on the whole a jaunty piece of work. Written with pace and confidence, it adroitly ...

Open that window, Miss Menzies

Patricia Craig, 7 August 1986

A Taste for Death 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 454 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13799 7
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A Dark-Adapted Eye 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 300 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 670 80976 4
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Dead Men’s Morris 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Joseph, 247 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2553 3
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Laurels are poison 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Hogarth, 237 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 7012 1010 9
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Dido and Pa 
by Joan Aiken.
Cape, 251 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 0 224 02364 0
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... of Hanoverians unhappy with the Scots succession which is posited with such gusto by the author, Joan Aiken. At the forefront of the foilers, once again, is one-time urchin Dido Twite, a splendid embodiment of lower-class London gumption, who thinks nothing of sliding down a slimy old buttress into the icy waters of the Thames, and never turns a hair in ...

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