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Stuck in Chicago

Linda Colley, 12 November 1987

by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 1165 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 7043 2625 6
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... less adept at poetry? Why some uses of words rather than others? What is the point in interviewing Margaret Drabble, Victoria Glendinning and Marina Warner, but failing to discuss such matters? Yet for all the evident faults and the egregious condescension of this book, it does almost despite itself have some value. The women interviewed confirm yet again ...

Ruling Imbecilities

Andrew Roberts, 7 November 1991

The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture and Other Circumstances of Language 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 153 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 19 811216 5
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... of Opinion’ more specific, criticising Malcolm Bradbury and Christopher Bigsby for presenting Margaret Drabble and John Le Carré as ‘most important writers’. He goes on to reproach the same critics for appealing to a ‘supposed consensus’ and for the use of the phrase ‘our time’, which Hill glosses as ‘your time made placable to our ...


John Bayley: On V.S. Pritchett, the Man of Letters, 30 January 1992

... still in the bones of the modern novel reader, and in novelists as different as Iris Murdoch and Margaret Drabble. Such readers and writers are in no sense Victorian throwbacks, yet they know in their bones that the true English novel is destined to a Victorian purpose and persona, in whatever modified circumstances. Pritchett understands this. He ...


Patrick Parrinder, 7 July 1988

Forty Stories 
by Donald Barthelme.
Secker, 256 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 436 03424 7
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Tiny Lies 
by Kate Pullinger.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 224 02560 0
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Ellen Foster 
by Kaye Gibbons.
Cape, 146 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 0 224 02529 5
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After the War 
by Frederick Raphael.
Collins, 528 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 00 223352 5
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... the War: at more than five hundred pages it aspires to the status of a grand social saga à la Margaret Drabble or C.P. Snow. Michael Jordan, sensitive and Jewish, has his first introduction to English mores at a boarding-school evacuated to the coast of North Devon. After the war he grows up to become a successful TV dramatist not unlike Raphael ...

Tribal Lays

D.J. Enright, 7 May 1981

The Hill Station 
by J.G. Farrell.
Weidenfeld, 238 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 297 77922 2
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... and, by reproducing Farrell’s notes, indicates the general course the story was to have taken. Margaret Drabble writes on the comic undercutting, at their most solemn moments, of Farrell’s characters and their world-views, adding, however, that he ‘combined a sense of the pointless absurdity of man with a real and increasing compassion for ...

Muffled Barks, Muted Yelps

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Hurricane Season’, 19 March 2020

Hurricane Season 
by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes.
Fitzcarraldo, 232 pp., £12.99, February, 978 1 913097 09 7
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... change over time, so that paragraph lengths that once seemed moderate (I’m thinking of early Margaret Drabble novels) now seem surprisingly substantial. Withholding indentation can amount to an assertion of seriousness and ambition, as it does in Thomas Bernhard’s Correction. That novel, written in two enormous paragraphs of equal size, multiplies ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland, 17 July 1980

by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... pseudonymous fiction is ‘who really wrote it?’ The question which often seems to be posed by Margaret Drabble’s novels is ‘how much of this is either autobiographical or thinly veiled roman à clef?’ It is not just that her heroines keep rough pace with their author’s age and mode of life as we all too well know it from profiles and ...

Shopping in Lucerne

E.S. Turner, 9 June 1994

Addicted to Romance: The Life and Adventures of Elinor Glyn 
by Joan Hardwick.
Deutsch, 306 pp., £20, June 1994, 0 233 98866 1
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Mother of Oscar: The Life of Jane Francesca Wilde 
by Joy Melville.
Murray, 308 pp., £19.99, June 1994, 0 7195 5102 1
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... Corelli and Ethel M. Dell, but not Glyn. Two thick Companions to Literature, one of them edited by Margaret Drabble, give her 13 lines between them. Chambers Biographical Dictionary snortingly dismisses the Glyn output as ‘nonsensical, high-falutin, faulty in construction and ungrammatical’, qualities which were never a bar to popular ...

Did my father do it?

C.H. Sisson, 20 October 1983

Elizabeth R.: A Biography 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £10.95, September 1983, 0 297 78285 1
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by Robert Lacey.
Hutchinson/BBC, 249 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 09 154290 1
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The Cult of the Prince Consort 
by Elizabeth Darby and Nicola Smith.
Yale, 120 pp., £10, October 1983, 0 300 03015 0
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... the way of business or horse-racing should distress nobody. She has no need to be impressed by ‘Margaret Drabble and other highbrows’ at informal Buckingham Palace luncheons. The monarch’s business is with practice and not with theory. It is we who have to get our ideas straight. The notion of a ‘royal biography’ is itself part of the kit of ...


John Bayley, 4 September 1986

An Academic Question 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 182 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 333 41843 3
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A Misalliance 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 191 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 224 02403 5
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... comedies of daily routine. Pym was a bit despondent about this. ‘It was supposed to be a sort of Margaret Drabble effort,’ she wrote to Philip Larkin, ‘but of course it hasn’t turned out like that at all.’ She tried to recast it in the third person, then abandoned both versions on completion and began to think about the novel that was to become ...

Ladies and Gentlemen

Patricia Beer, 6 May 1982

The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-17 
by Jane Marcus.
Macmillan, 340 pp., £9.95, April 1982, 0 333 25589 5
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The Harsh Voice 
by Rebecca West, introduced by Alexandra Pringle.
Virago, 250 pp., £2.95, February 1982, 0 86068 249 8
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The Meaning of Treason 
by Rebecca West.
Virago, 439 pp., £3.95, February 1982, 0 86068 256 0
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by Rebecca West.
Weidenfeld, 190 pp., £10, February 1982, 9780297779636
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... work of women imaginative writers.’ So into the witness-box come successively Edna O’Brien, Margaret Drabble, Penelope Mortimer, Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch. In the case of three, perhaps four, of the witnesses nothing is said about how they give their evidence. In the two years that Rebecca West was contributing to the Clarion, 1912 and 1913, she ...

Waiting for the next move

John Bayley, 23 July 1987

Dostoevsky. The Stir of Liberation: 1860-1865 
by Joseph Frank.
Robson, 395 pp., £17.95, April 1987, 0 86051 242 8
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Selected Letters of Dostoevsky 
edited by Joseph Frank and David Goldstein.
Rutgers, 543 pp., $29.95, May 1987, 0 8135 1185 2
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... earnestly unreal type of state-of-the-nation novel which has been current from George Eliot to Margaret Drabble. The most effective state-of-the-nation commentary in art seems to be indirect and spontaneous, born of some local controversy, like Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, or even War and Peace, which was a kind of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in ...

From the Motorcoach

Stefan Collini: J.B. Priestley, 19 November 2009

English Journey 
by J.B. Priestley.
Great Northern Books, 351 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 1 905080 47 2
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... from a number of prefatory pages by current admirers of Priestley such as Beryl Bainbridge and Margaret Drabble, the chief novelty of this edition is that it has been printed in large coffee-table format to accommodate the numerous photographs that have been interspersed through the text. The addition of these photos, a curious mixture of unidentified ...

Some Sad Turtle

Alison Light: Spinsters and Clerics, 29 July 2021

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym: A Biography 
by Paula Byrne.
William Collins, 686 pp., £25, April, 978 0 00 832220 5
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... stockings and high heels touchingly comic. Pym valiantly kept up with new writers: Doris Lessing, Margaret Drabble, Sylvia Plath, Norman Mailer, William S. Burroughs. A James Baldwin novel, she wrote to Larkin, quoting the publishers’ blurb, was indeed ‘powerful’. She thought it ‘a very well-written book, but so upsetting – one is really glad ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... and the writers he respected or got on with were often women: Elizabeth Bowen, Olivia Manning, Margaret Drabble, Alison Lurie. The letters from Farrell’s years of post-Booker fame are an education in the glamour of English literary celebrity. ‘I don’t want to be interfering about your azalea,’ he writes to ...

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