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Children’s Fiction and the Past

Nicholas Tucker, 17 July 1980

The Lord of Greenwich 
by Juliet Dymoke.
Dobson, 224 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 234 72165 0
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A Flight of Swans 
by Barbara Willard.
Kestrel, 185 pp., £4.50, May 1980, 0 7226 5438 3
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Fanny and the Battle of Potter’s Piece 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 45 pp., £3.50, June 1980, 9780434949373
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John Diamond 
by Leon Garfield.
Kestrel, 180 pp., £4.50, April 1980, 9780722656198
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by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 150 pp., £4.50, June 1980, 0 7226 5285 2
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I was there 
by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 187 pp., £4.50, June 1980, 0 7226 6434 6
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The Time of the Young Soldiers 
by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 128 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 7226 5122 8
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The Runaway Train 
by Penelope Farmer.
Heinemann, 48 pp., £3.50, June 1980, 0 434 94938 8
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... be borne in mind. If the intention is merely to entertain in an avowedly lightweight work, as in Penelope Lively’s Fanny and the Battle of Potter’s Piece, only a pedant would insist that it is always necessary to include glimpses of less pleasant aspects of the past as well. But although it is fun to read about Victorian family games in large ...

Luck Dispensers

Penelope Fitzgerald, 11 July 1991

The Kitchen God’s Wife 
by Amy Tan.
HarperCollins, 415 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 0 00 223708 3
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... The Kitchen God, surely one of the most irritating minor deities ever conceived, was once a rich farmer called Zhang, with a kind and patient wife. But he chased her out of the house, spent all his substance on another woman and reduced himself to beggary. Nearly at death’s door, he was carried into the kitchen of a charitable lady who took pity on the ...


Penelope Fitzgerald, 13 October 1988

Olive Schreiner: Letters. Vol. 1: 1871-1899 
edited by Richard Rive.
Oxford, 409 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 812220 9
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... women’s right to financial and sexual independence, for the Boers against the British, the small farmer against the capitalist, the blacks (always ‘Kaffirs’ or ‘niggers’ to Olive) against the whites, she spent herself recklessly. All this was in the face of a chronic illness, apparently asthma, which is often said to be psychosomatic (though never by ...

Disconnected Realities

Mary Hawthorne: In the Munro mould, 17 February 2005

by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 325 pp., £15.99, February 2005, 0 7011 7750 0
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... a time, before his business failed and he became a night watchman, her father was a fox and mink farmer. The climate was dramatic: winters were bitterly cold, and summers fiercely hot and pestilent. Munro was a pretty and precocious child who did recitations on the radio when she was three or four years old. A few years later, at school, she turned awkward ...


Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 July 1996

Edward Thomas: Selected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... right person. In 1913 Robert Frost arrived with his family from New Hampshire, unsuccessful as a farmer and not well known as a poet. George Thomas includes some of the first notes between them (‘My dear Frost – I wish you were nearer so that we could see one another easily with our children’) and after that, Frost said, ‘1914 was our year. I never ...

Lotti’s Leap

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 July 1982

Collected Poems and Prose 
by Charlotte Mew, edited by Val Warner.
Carcanet/Virago, 445 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 85635 260 8
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... account for what life did to her. Charlotte Mew was the third child (out of eight) of Fred Mew, a farmer’s son from the Isle of Wight, who had come to London to be trained as an architect by H.E. Kendall. In 1863 he married Kendall’s daughter, a tiny, silly woman who was ‘above’ him, and always made him feel so: he was made to describe his own ...

On the Shelf

Tom Crewe: ‘The Adventures of Caleb Williams’, 8 October 2020

... Watching a good plot,’ Penelope Fitzgerald wrote in the LRB (21 February 1980),is like watching something alive, or if it is adroit and sinuous enough, something struggling for life. Between the once-born and the twice-born plot (which makes the reader, even if he is reading it for the twentieth time, want to interfere at every stage), the difference, of course, is great ...


Susannah Clapp, 23 July 1987

A Life with Alan: The Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... his wife surrounded by gossip columnists. A year or so later he took off from Jocelyn Rickards for Penelope Gilliatt. Rickards, who expresses indulgence towards her lovers, reserves her main darts on this occasion for Gilliatt, who didn’t iron her dresses, cooked watery scrambled eggs and sent express letters daily to Osborne when he was holidaying with ...

Stand-Up Vampire

Gillian White: Louise Glück, 26 September 2013

Poems 1962-2012 
by Louise Glück.
Farrar, Straus, 634 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 374 12608 7
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... shows the power of fantasy to shape our experience of the world. In ‘Ithaca’, Glück’s Penelope dreams as she weaves. Her suitors have failed to realise that Odysseus is powerfully present in her memory: The beloved doesn’t need to live. The beloved lives in the head … He was the body and voice, the easy magnetism of a living man, and then ...

Time for Several Whiskies

Ian Jack: BBC Propaganda, 30 August 2018

Auntie’s War: The BBC during the Second World War 
by Edward Stourton.
Doubleday, 422 pp., £20, November 2017, 978 0 85752 332 7
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... Mayfair type of snob feeds on the lower nation whom it robs. How long is this going to last?’ A farmer in Yorkshire wrote to the BBC to protest that ‘with over forty years’ close contact with the working classes I am appalled at the accumulating and increasing interest taken by them in this swine’s broadcasting.’ Joyce’s biggest ...

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