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One’s Self-Washed Drawers

Rosemary Hill: Ida John

28 June 2017
The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John 
edited by Rebecca John and Michael Holroyd.
Bloomsbury, 352 pp., £25, May 2017, 978 1 4088 7362 5
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... wife, but without the staff a middle-class household would command or the security. Meanwhile the door to a respectable life had slammed shut behind her. Ida Nettleship sketched by Augustus John (c.1900) Such, more or less, is the story of Ida Nettleship, the first wife of Augustus John, who died of puerperal fever at the age of 30 in 1907 and was soon lost to view. In John’s unfinished ...

Under Her Buttons

Joanna Biggs: Ottessa Moshfegh

30 March 2016
Eileen 
by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Cape, 260 pp., £16.99, March 2016, 978 0 224 10255 1
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... head – ‘all my mind does now is it spins around something I’d have sooner forgotten,’ McGlue says – by executing him; in Eileen, plot arrives in the form of a tall redheaded woman called Rebecca Saint John whose unexplained, shining presence Eileen recognises as ‘my ticket to a new life’. Rebecca – not all that different from Du Maurier’s Rebecca – has arrived from Harvard to set ...

Gladys whispered

John​ Bayley

6 December 1990
The Billiard Table Murders 
by Glen Baxter.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 9780747507499
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... brilliantined hair takes his beloved in his arms and gently squeezes her goatee. Romance in the Baxter context is seldom wholly, or even partially, satisfactory. ‘On the night of our honeymoon ... Rebecca proved to be something of an enigma.’ The picture shows Rebecca in her underwear, over which she has thrown a mannish black dressing-gown piped with white, matching her three-quarter-heel shoes and ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Rebecca’

20 July 2006
Rebecca 
directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
June 2006
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... It’s not a Hitchcock picture,’ the master told François Truffaut. He was being a little cagy, but in one sense he was right. Rebecca, now showing in a brand-new, sharp-focus print at the National Film Theatre and the Screen on the Hill, was a David O. Selznick film, ‘a picturisation’ as the title credits have it, of a very ...
6 May 1982
The Young RebeccaWritings 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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1990 
by Rebecca​ West.
Weidenfeld, 190 pp., £10, February 1982, 9780297779636
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... The Young Rebecca is a collection of the writings of Rebecca West from 1911 to 1917, selected and introduced by Jane Marcus, with just the right amount of explanation and comment. In one respect it is an unfortunate title, suggesting an item from the cast-list ...

In Praise of Follett

John​ Sutherland

16 October 1980
The Key to Rebecca 
by Ken Follett.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 241 10492 0
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Joshua Then and Now 
by Mordecai Richler.
Macmillan, 435 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 333 30025 4
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Loosely Engaged 
by Christopher Matthew.
Hutchinson, 150 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 09 142830 0
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Imago Bird 
by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 185 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 9780436288463
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A Quest of Love 
by Jacquetta Hawkes.
Chatto, 220 pp., £6.50, October 1980, 0 7011 2536 5
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... under review here, Ken Follett’s will sell most. Over the last five years the author has assumed Forsyth’s fitfully-worn mantle and established himself as the world-wide super-seller. The Key to Rebecca will follow Eye of the Needle (1978) and Triple (1979) as a surefire triumph. He is now one of a select band of novelists – Forsyth, Maclean and Higgins are others – at the golden nucleus of the ...

Prodigies

Patrick O’Brian

10 May 1990
The Travels of Mendes Pinto 
by Fernao Mendes Pinto, translated by Rebecca​ Catz.
Chicago, 663 pp., £39.95, October 1989, 0 226 66951 3
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The Grand Peregrination 
by Maurice Collis.
Carcanet, 313 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 0 85635 850 9
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... survive it. What then are we to say to Fernao Mendes Pinto, who travelled with scarcely a pause except for being captured 13 times and 17 times sold into slavery, going from the Ethiopia of Prester John to the Japan of the Daimyos and St Francis Xavier? Some say that he was a prodigy, as well as one of the great Portuguese classics, the prose equivalent of Camoens; others say that he was a liar ...

More Fun to Be a Boy

Lorna Scott Fox: Haunted by du Maurier

2 November 2000
Daphne du Maurier: Haunted Heiress 
by Nina Auerbach.
Pennsylvania, 216 pp., £18.50, December 1999, 0 8122 3530 4
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... There is a whiff of apology about the beginning of this book. Daphne du Maurier is known to be a trashy writer of escapist romance: you’re likely to find Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek and Rebecca in the teenage section, and the other titles practically nowhere – so why this ardent study? By the end of it, though, Nina Auerbach has achieved quite a rehabilitation. This du Maurier is not one ...

Golf Grips and Swastikas

William Feaver: Francis Bacon’s Litter

26 February 2009
Francis Bacon: Incunabula 
edited by Martin Harrison and Rebecca​ Daniels.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £39.95, September 2008, 978 0 500 09344 3
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... on what is now paper booty. Sometimes he did slightly more, altering images, even accentuating them, but this was hardly an artistic procedure. In their notes at the back of the book Harrison and Rebecca Daniels make what they can of such largely haphazard markings, their function or status in this iconographical ‘image-bank’. We are shown a photo from a 1961 Paris Match of Jeanne Moreau baring ...
17 October 1985
A Maggot 
by John​ Fowles.
Cape, 460 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 224 02806 5
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The Romances of John​ Fowles 
by Simon Loveday.
Macmillan, 164 pp., £25, August 1985, 0 333 31518 9
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... to the apparent point, in the poor light, of baldness; and indeed looks like nothing so much as a modern skinhead, did not his clothes deny it.’ That quotation well illustrates the style in which John Fowles begins this historical novel, or mystery story, lingering over his descriptions. The reviewer-like use of the present tense, the schoolmasterly ‘not what it means today’, and the reference ...

Short Cuts

Tariq Ali: So much for England

13 January 2020
... the result of the 2016 referendum without any more shilly-shallying. Democracy matters. Labour’s rejection of the referendum outcome at its bubble party conference last September did them in. John McDonnell was right to take the blame for the defeat. His insistence on a second referendum was a huge strategic blunder.Johnson’s first speech as prime minister, delivered to the cameras outside ...

Nice Guy

Michael Wood

14 November 1996
The Life and Work of Harold Pinter 
by Michael Billington.
Faber, 414 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 571 17103 6
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... just gone through an extremely trying time with the divorce from Vivien.’ Another solution is to substitute Pinter’s version of an occasion for whatever other interpretation is on offer, so that John Bayley’s claim that Pinter was ‘crimson with rage’ at a dinner in Oxford can be replaced by the simple truth that Pinter was just having a mild-mannered discussion about Israel. Billington ...

Whakapapa

D.A.N. Jones

21 November 1985
The Prague Orgy 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 89 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 224 02815 4
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Loyalties 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 378 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2843 7
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Cousin Rosamund 
by Rebecca​ West.
Macmillan, 295 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 333 39797 5
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The Battle of Pollocks Crossing 
by J.L. Carr.
Viking, 176 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 670 80559 9
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The Bone People 
by Keri Hulme.
Hodder, 450 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 37024 6
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... it was Uncle Joe. The whole song needs critical interpretation. Whose side is Monkey Pitter really on? Loyalties does, in its mysterious way, say more about the subject promised by its title than Rebecca West managed with The Meaning of Treason. She was not very good at moralising, because of her strong tendency to be self-righteous and unfair. But she was good at creating female characters and ...
20 March 1997
Henrik Ibsen 
by Robert Ferguson.
Cohen, 466 pp., £25, November 1996, 1 86066 078 9
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... at Casamicciola, Ischia, in 1867), it all went horribly wrong. Ferguson, himself a playwright, and a translator of Ibsen, was inspired to write the first major biography for 25 years by seeing John Barton’s Oslo production of Peer Gynt ‘and wondering why a man who could create a comic circus like that should choose to devote the rest of his life to writing a series of dark analyses of ...

Imbued … with Exigence

Christopher Tayler: Rachel Cusk

22 September 2005
In the Fold 
by Rachel Cusk.
Faber, 224 pp., £10.99, September 2005, 0 571 22813 5
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... and writers. ‘Generally the greatest writers have written about what they’ve seen around them, about – in the parlance of creative writing schools – what they “know”.’ She quotes John Gardner saying that ‘great writers tell the truth exactly – and get it right.’ But, she says, ‘for the modern British – more to the point, English – novelist, this notion of truth is a ...

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