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Dying Falls

John Lanchester

23 July 1987
Temporary Shelter 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 231 pp., £11.95, July 1987, 0 7475 0006 1
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Bluebeard’s Egg 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 287 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 224 02245 8
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The Native 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 122 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3247 7
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The March of the Long Shadows 
by Norman Lewis.
Secker, 232 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 436 24620 1
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... that Terry Eagleton has called a ‘pulled punch’. The pulled punch – the resonant and suggestive dying fall – is a common enough ending in short fiction too, and it’s exactly the ending MaryGordon consistently avoids in her new collection of stories, which end with a single note rather than with a cadence, with the pressing-through of an emotion or a theme rather than with an ironic ...

Was Carmen brainwashed?

Patrick Parrinder

5 December 1985
Life goes on 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 517 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 246 12709 0
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Men and Angels 
by Mary Gordon.
Cape, 239 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 224 02998 3
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Heavenly Deception 
by Maggie Brooks.
Chatto, 299 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 9780701128647
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Love Always 
by Ann Beattie.
Joseph, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 7181 2609 2
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...  is answered almost too neatly by the first two novels under review. Alan Sillitoe’s Life goes on is a rampant adventure-tale of a male rogue, or rogue male, on the loose between two marriages. MaryGordon’s Men and Angels shows a happily-married heroine struggling tenaciously, in her husband’s absence, to preserve her own integrity by defending her home and children against an intruder ...

Menagerie of Live Authors

Francesca Wade: Marys Shelley and Wollstonecraft

7 October 2015
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary​ Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley 
by Charlotte Gordon.
Hutchinson, 649 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 09 195894 7
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... There were​ high hopes for the son of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, the grandson of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, but the boy told his mother that all he wanted was a quiet life and a sailing boat. She wasn’t wholly disappointed at his failure to distinguish himself. When it was suggested at ...

Test Case

Robert Taubman

3 September 1981
July’s People 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Cape, 160 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 0 224 01932 5
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The Company of Women 
by Mary Gordon.
Cape, 291 pp., £6.50, July 1981, 0 224 01955 4
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Zuckerman Unbound 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 225 pp., £5.95, August 1981, 0 224 01974 0
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... Felicitas has to subsist and grow up on, through the sex and commune-living phase, isn’t given any substance in the novel. The scene has already been satirised as much as any in modern times, and MaryGordon only adds some amusing lines. Father Cyprian and the trendy Columbia set are at least figures exaggerated to make a calculated effect. The effect of some other parts of the novel seems ...

Problems

Peter Campbell

1 October 1981
Early Disorder 
by Rebecca Josephs.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 186 pp., £5.50, September 1981, 0 571 12031 8
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A Star for the Latecomer 
by Bonnie Zindel.
Bodley Head, 186 pp., £3.95, March 1981, 0 370 30319 9
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Catherine loves 
by Timothy Ireland.
Bodley Head, 117 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 370 30292 3
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Jacob have I loved 
by Katherine Paterson.
Gollancz, 216 pp., £4.95, April 1981, 0 575 02961 7
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... bridge has been built from the place where children play to that where adults squabble, although competition from Dallas or Honey probably has more to do with this than the need for a transition from Mary Norton to MaryGordon. The gap in Willa’s bookshelf was not, however, an unnatural one: children switch from Ballet Shoes to Jean Rhys and then back to Ballet Shoes, as though they need, or relish ...

What a Woman!

J.L. Nelson: Joan of Arc

19 October 2000
Joan of Arc 
by Mary Gordon.
Weidenfeld, 168 pp., £12.99, April 2000, 0 297 64568 4
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Joan of Arc: A Military Leader 
by Kelly DeVries.
Sutton, 242 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7509 1805 5
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The Interrogation of Joan of Arc 
by Karen Sullivan.
Minnesota, 208 pp., £30, November 1999, 0 8166 3267 7
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... problems apart, this is to move too swiftly, and anachronistically, to high-level ducal politics. The local context seems the right one to focus on at this early stage of Joan’s career. MaryGordon is no military specialist, nor a medievalist, yet her account of Joan’s initial motivation rings true: Joan’s mission was a psychological response to the trauma of the church’s destruction and ...
25 March 1993
The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell 
edited by Stephanie Terenzio.
Oxford, 325 pp., £35, April 1993, 0 19 507700 8
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... In her essay ‘Good Boys and Dead Girls’ MaryGordon identifies the ‘American innocent’. She tracks him – young, restless and bad news for women – through the novels of Faulkner, Dreiser and Updike. ‘All that matters is that his heart must be ...
8 February 1990
Kingdom come 
by Bernice Rubens.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £12.99, February 1990, 0 241 12481 6
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The Other Side 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 337 pp., £13.99, January 1990, 0 7475 0473 3
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The Alchemist 
by Mark Illis.
Bloomsbury, 244 pp., £13.95, January 1990, 0 7475 0468 7
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The way you tell them: A Yarn of the Nineties 
by Alan Brownjohn.
Deutsch, 145 pp., £11.95, January 1990, 0 233 98496 8
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... shape of an older legend. The personnel of the Sabbataian story invite comparison (or contrast) with Christian counterparts: Sabbatai’s father and mother, Mordecai and Clara, with Joseph and Mary; his harlot-wife, Sarah, with Mary Magdalen; his homosexual lover and 12th apostle, Saul, with Judas; the Vizier and Sultan with Pilate. For the reader, the recurrent awareness of one story ...

Body Maps

Janette Turner Hospital

7 April 1994
The Rest of Life 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 257 pp., £15.99, January 1994, 0 7475 1675 8
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... children, says the psychiatrist, ‘remind me every day how difficult it is to keep alive. The minimum for existence requires an attention we wouldn’t agree to if we understood its scope.’ For Gordon’s compulsively equivocating narrators, ‘ordinary life’ is a baffling country for which they must keep drafting provisional maps even though the topography forever shifts, resisting ...

Her pen made the first move

Ruth Bernard Yeazell

7 July 1994
Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 418 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 9780701161378
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Vintage, 285 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 09 942461 4
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The Sickroom in Victorian Fiction: The Art of Being Ill 
by Miriam Bailin.
Cambridge, 169 pp., £30, April 1994, 0 521 44526 4
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... ë noted simply that this ‘admirable’ letter ‘tends to bring out her character’, and Winifred Gérin’s 1967 biography remarked the writer’s ‘good sense – and good manners’, Lyndall Gordon reports that ‘present-day audiences hear the sarcasm undetected by Southey, and never fail to laugh.’ Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life is very much directed at those audiences. Indeed, if ...

Too vulgar

Gabriele Annan

13 February 1992
The Last Empress: The Life and Times of Zita of Austria-Hungary 
by Gordon​ Brook-Shepherd.
HarperCollins, 364 pp., £20, November 1991, 0 00 215861 2
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... lives written by the Barbara Cartlands of biography, romantics like Joan Haslip whose life of the famous fascinator Elizabeth of Austria, the last empress but one, was as spirited as its subject. Gordon Brook-Shepherd is not that kind of writer at all (nor was his empress that kind of empress). A former foreign correspondent and deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph, he is a specialist in modern ...

Other Selves

John Bayley

29 October 1987
How I Grew 
by Mary​ McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... in which they simply put it all down, with various degrees of relaxation and garrulity. A memoir by Proust, instead of a novel by Marcel, is a depressing thought. Such reflections are prompted by Mary McCarthy’s latest book. There was something challenging and stimulating, a bracing offer of American romance, about A Charmed Life, and Cast a Cold Eye, and The Group, and other novels and tales of ...
7 September 2000
Irish America 
by Reginald Byron.
Oxford, 317 pp., £40, November 1999, 0 19 823355 8
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Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past 
by Richard White.
Cork, 282 pp., IR£14.99, October 1999, 1 85918 232 1
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From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish 
by Eamon Wall.
Wisconsin, 139 pp., $16.95, February 2000, 0 299 16724 0
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The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America 
edited by Michael Glazier.
Notre Dame, 988 pp., £58.50, August 1999, 0 268 02755 2
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... up a bit. Wall is more concerned with what a writer chooses as subject-matter than with where he or she is from. He discusses the work of writers from a great variety of backgrounds: Brian Moore, MaryGordon, Thomas McGonigle and Michael Stephens. Stephens’s work, he says, is best read alongside that of the African-American Trey Ellis, the Latina Sandra Cisneros and the Scot James Kelman, rather ...
29 September 1988
Eliot’s New Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Oxford, 356 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 19 811727 2
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The Letters of T.S. Eliot 
edited by Valerie Eliot.
Faber, 618 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 571 13621 4
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The Poetics of Impersonality 
by Maud Ellmann.
Harvester, 207 pp., £32.50, January 1988, 0 7108 0463 6
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T.S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism 
by Richard Shusterman.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £19.95, February 1988, 0 7156 2187 4
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‘The Men of 1914’: T.S. Eliot and Early Modernism 
by Erik Svarny.
Open University, 268 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 335 09019 2
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Eliot, Joyce and Company 
by Stanley Sultan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 504880 6
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The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 251 pp., £25, December 1987, 9780198128694
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T.S. Eliot: The Poems 
by Martin Scofield.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 30147 5
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... The idea that Eliot’s poetry was rooted in private aspects of his life has now been accepted,’ says Lyndall Gordon in the Foreword to her second volume of biographical rooting among these aspects. This acceptance, which she evidently approves, has undoubtedly occurred, as a root through the enormous heap of books ...

‘I thirst for his blood’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Henry James

25 November 1999
Henry James: A Life in Letters 
edited by Philip Horne.
Penguin, 668 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 7139 9126 7
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A Private Life of Henry James: Two Women and His Art 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 500 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6166 3
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... its having ‘too many opinions & “remarks” & not enough facts & documents’ would have welcomed the editorial scrupulousness and interpretative restraint of Horne’s Life in Letters. Lyndall Gordon also offers her book as a biographical experiment, but her assumptions about what counts as James’s ‘life’ are radically different. ‘James’s own letters,’ she announces at the outset ...

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