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Jeremy Treglown: Olivia Manning

9 February 2006
Olivia ManningA Life 
by Neville Braybrooke and June Braybrooke.
Chatto, 301 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 7011 7749 7
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... A great many novels nowadays are just travel books,’ Ivy Compton-Burnett grumbled to Barbara Pym in 1960. ‘Olivia has just published one about Bulgaria.’ She hadn’t noticed that the setting of The Great Fortune is in fact Romania. But she had a point. Journeys, voluntary and enforced, are big in Olivia ...
21 August 1980
The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City, Friends and Heroes 
by Olivia Manning.
Penguin, 287 pp., £1.25, March 1980, 0 14 003543 5
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... a serious matter. There is something dotty about Ritchie-Hook, the defence of Crete is a shambles, but in the end Waugh’s work belongs within the realistic tradition of the English novel. So does OliviaManning’s Balkan trilogy, which is the only other lengthy attempt by an English novelist to handle part of World War Two as a theme. (Anthony Powell’s three relevant volumes in The Music of Time ...

Fortunes of War

Graham Hough

6 November 1980
The Sum of Things 
by Olivia Manning.
Weidenfeld, 203 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 297 77816 1
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The Viceroy of Ouidah 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 155 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 224 01820 5
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The Sooting Party 
by Isabel Colegate.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 241 10473 4
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An Ancient Castle 
by Robert Graves.
Owen, 69 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 7206 0567 9
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... The title of OliviaManning’s last book, from Housman’s heroic-ironic epitaph on an earlier war, announces a summing-up: the last volume of a trilogy, the trilogy itself the continuation of a previous one; the final flowing ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode

6 June 1985
The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... listed at the front of this Companion I see the name of Penelope Fitgerald – not, however, to be found in the body of the book. Why Ian Fleming and not, say, Gavin Ewart? Why Alfred Noyes and not OliviaManning? Why not both A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble? Doubtless for all sorts of reasons. Why Tannhäuser and not Parsifal? Why summarise The Shaving of Shagpat and not Living or Loving? However, a ...
20 August 1992
Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma 
by George MacDonald Fraser.
Harvill, 255 pp., £16, June 1992, 0 00 272660 2
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Tyrants and Mountains: A Reckless Life 
by Denis Hills.
Murray, 262 pp., £19.95, June 1992, 0 7195 4640 0
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... of war it was. Hills’s fast-paced autobiography tells how the outbreak of hostilities found him teaching in Poland, whence he escaped to join the British Council circus in Bucharest made famous by OliviaManning (he even said ‘What ho!’ three times in Reggie Turner’s ineffable Shakespeare production). Detaching himself to Egypt, he joined the Army and was commissioned on the General List. So ...
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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... include the homosexual. The book describes the misadventures of Maddy and Georgiana on a week’s holiday from Istanbul: neither takes much interest in the historic vestiges of Smyrna, in the way an OliviaManning character would have done in this situation, but instead each devotes herself to indulgence and capering around. There are hints at times of a world like that of The sun also rises, when you ...

Baby Face

John Bayley

24 May 1990
William Gerhardie: A Biography 
by Dido Davies.
Oxford, 411 pp., £25, April 1990, 0 19 211794 7
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Memoirs of a Polyglot 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 381 pp., £5.95, April 1990, 0 86072 111 6
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Futility 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 198 pp., £4.95, April 1990, 0 86072 112 4
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God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, edited by Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hogarth, 360 pp., £8.95, April 1990, 0 7012 0887 2
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... the early novels were done made them look like the literary future, not just to Evelyn Waugh but to Rebecca West and Arnold Bennett – the young and the old alike – H.G. Wells, Elizabeth Bowen, OliviaManning, Anthony Powell. In his time Gerhardie was at least as potent a literary influence in England as Hemingway, and more pervasive, more part of the new metropolitan air that English authors ...

Public Life

Pat Rogers

1 April 1982
A Model Childhood 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Ursule Molinaro and Hedwig Rappolt.
Virago, 407 pp., £8.95, April 1982, 0 86068 253 6
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The Safety Net 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Secker, 314 pp., £7.50, March 1982, 9780436054549
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The Country of her Dreams 
by Janice Elliott.
Hodder, 186 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 340 27830 7
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The Soul’s Gymansium and Other Stories 
by Harold Acton.
Hamish Hamilton, 165 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 241 10740 7
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... a congress in a coyly unnamed Yugoslavia in post-Tito days. The violent Balkan politics, the mysterious Byzantine churches, the stuffy but intriguing British Council types – all irresistibly recall OliviaManning. A coup and a kidnapping put some strain on Janice Elliott’s talents, which lie more obviously in the social comedy of international bureaucrats and culture vultures, or in the private ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp

19 December 1985
Stevie 
by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... real point of any conversation’. None of this is cheering; none of it is inaccurate; none of it captures the lively responsiveness of her letters. ‘If she’s really dying, send her my love,’ OliviaManning said when Stevie Smith was taken to hospital. The poet is reported to have enjoyed this. She had entertained the idea of suicide as an honourable way out since she was nine; she once tried to ...
16 December 1993
Aren’t We Due a Royalty Statement? 
by Giles Gordon.
Chatto, 352 pp., £16.99, August 1993, 0 7011 6022 5
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Yesterday Came Suddenly 
by Francis King.
Constable, 336 pp., £16.95, September 1993, 9780094722200
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Excursions in the Real World 
by William Trevor.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 09 177086 6
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... has an intriguing tone which is both racy and funereal. He has already told us that he likes his women friends to be difficult and in London there seems to have been no lack of choice. The sketch of OliviaManning is one of the best. He presents her irritating, often unpleasant vagaries with something like affection. It is part of King’s technique that when he has something nasty to say he quotes ...

Superhistory

Patrick Parrinder

6 December 1990
Curfew 
by Jose Donoso, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Picador, 310 pp., £13.95, October 1990, 0 330 31157 3
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War Fever 
by J.G. Ballard.
Collins, 176 pp., £12.95, November 1990, 0 00 223770 9
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Great Climate 
by Michael Wilding.
Faber, 147 pp., £12.99, November 1990, 0 571 14428 4
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Honour Thy Father 
by Lesley Glaister.
Secker, 182 pp., £13.99, September 1990, 9780436199981
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... of their actions, but Donoso gently deflates their pretensions. Whatever their real-life originals, most of these squabbling, down-at-heel literati would be comfortably at home in the pages of OliviaManning. To the extent that it offers a kind of instant history, Curfew must already be a period piece. The nightly curfew, with its silence broken by the wailing of sirens and the droning of police ...

Waving

Anthony Thwaite

27 October 1988
Stevie Smith: A Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... NEB lapses, she knew her Origen and Augustine, her Cranmer and Laud, her Belloc, Chesterton and Ronald Knox. She could drive her friends to fury with casuistical arguments and ‘being impossible’. OliviaManning, a gifted writer but one who never felt that justice had been properly done to her own gifts, had a forked tongue where her sometime friend Stevie was concerned. She recognised, I think, the ...

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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... expectation of being left alone to work‘. Yet most stayed on friendly terms with him even after the Bovril treatment, and the writers he respected or got on with were often women: Elizabeth Bowen, OliviaManning, 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 ...
19 September 1985
Pound’s Artists: Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts in London, Paris and Italy 
by Richard Humphreys.
Tate Gallery, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 946590 28 1
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Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-1914 
edited by Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz.
Faber, 399 pp., £25, January 1985, 0 571 13480 7
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... must know the full story, but rightly I think, though rather austerely, he has left it for us to piece together. And some of the nuances are lost on us, or left hanging as possibilities. Was Frederic Manning, for instance, the Australian who would later write Her Privates We, in love with Dorothy, and wounded when she preferred Pound? We are not told. This is not to say that the letters can be left to ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett

5 April 2007
... knew this because of the sort of work they were offered by English directors and Beckett knew it by the response to his work by English critics and writers. There was a wonderful encounter with OliviaManning when she berated him for his pessimism, his aridity and his lack of hope. But the two actors and Beckett were insiders as much as outsiders in the great city, they were deeply treasured and ...

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