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Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 1 June 2000

... don’t say is how you then discover you never felt he loved you. A hand on your arm would be a first: not true to life as you have lived it. Think, instead, of how he sent you to a shrink when you were eight, or nine. Shrinks – if you were in the business – were the panacea for everything. He had your IQ tested, you were fine – too fine, in fact ...

Special Frocks

Jenny Turner: Justine Picardie, 5 January 2006

My Mother’s Wedding Dress: The Fabric of Our Lives 
by Justine Picardie.
Picador, 336 pp., £12.99, September 2005, 0 330 41306 6
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... Picardie’s fashion memoir centres on the story of a dead sibling, in her case, a dead sister, Ruth. Ruth, as many readers will already know, was, like her sister, a writer and journalist on the fluffier end of London newspapers and magazines. She wrote about babies (she had infant twins), face creams, new clothes from ...

True Grit

David Craig, 8 February 1996

Wainwright: The Biography 
by Hunter Davies.
Joseph, 356 pp., £16.99, October 1995, 0 7181 3909 7
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... treat it with respect. It might be me.’ And so it might. As Hunter Davies tells us in this first, thorough biography of the man, two months after he died in January 1991 at the age of 84, his wife and an old friend, both in their 70th year, climbed up to the tarn at seven in the morning by way of Honister old quarry and consigned his dust to that ...

Come back, Inspector Wexford

Douglas Johnson, 7 March 1985

The Killing Doll 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson/Arrow, 237 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 155480 2
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The Tree of Hands 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson, 269 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 09 158680 1
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... We still have a Queen of Crime. For nearly twenty years Ruth Rendell has been hailed as the successor to Sayers, Christie, Marsh and Allingham, perpetuating the old question of why it is that there should be a particularly feminine talent for detective fiction. Her Chief Inspector, Wexford by name, has joined the ranks of legendary police heroes, and although he is Sussex-based he can occasionally, via a nephew, call upon the resources of Scotland Yard ...

Rogue’s Paradise

R.W. Johnson: The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova, 16 July 1998

The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War 
by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova.
Human and Rousseau/Combined Book Services, 287 pp., £17.99, June 1998, 0 7981 3804 1
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... at the outbreak of the Boer War. ‘Every day I read the news in the British newspapers from the first to the last line . . . I cannot conceal my joy at . . . yesterday’s news that during General White’s sally two full British battalions and a mountain battery were captured by the Boers!’ Britain’s hold on South Africa was significant for the ...

What women think about men

D.A.N. Jones, 5 February 1987

The Progress of Love 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 309 pp., £9.95, January 1987, 0 7011 3161 6
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by Jeremy Cooper.
Hutchinson, 187 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 09 167110 8
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... tolerance is almost nurse-like: some of these characters, one feels, should be denounced. In Ruth Jeremy Cooper displays a feminine consciousness with a peculiarly English style of dead-keen soppiness. Ruth is a lonely young lady in Somerset: she addresses God as ‘Goddi’ and her mother calls her ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... high. The coverage is massive: over 2700 literary lives summarised, many if not most for the first time. Time will tell, but the biographical information strikes one as unusually reliable, and it often tacitly corrects previous reference sources. The bulk of the entries, apparently, were principally written by the three executive editors (Isobel Grundy ...

Bouvard and Pécuchet

C.H. Sisson, 6 December 1984

The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters: Correspondence of George Lyttelton and Rupert Hart-Davis. 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 193 pp., £13.50, April 1984, 0 7195 4108 5
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... George Lyttelton died on 1 May 1962, thus ending a correspondence which had begun in 1955; the first of the volumes edited by the survivor was published in 1978, the rest have appeared at intervals since. ‘For beginners’, as Rupert Hart-Davis puts it, mindful of those who have had to pick up the thread at some intermediate stage of the ...

An Unreliable Friend

R.W. Johnson: Nelson Mandela, 19 August 1999

Mandela: The Authorised Biography 
by Anthony Sampson.
HarperCollins, 500 pp., £24.99, May 1999, 0 00 255829 7
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... drafted by the white Communist, Lionel Bernstein. The Congress itself was stage-managed: on the first day the Charter was simply recited to the delegates, who accepted it ‘by acclaim’, which meant that the front organisation delegates had done their job, shouting out applause and ramming it through. No wonder the Liberals, and the Pan-Africanists under ...

Sit like an Apple

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Artists’ Wives, 23 October 2008

Hidden in the Shadow of the Master: The Model-Wives of Cézanne, Monet and Rodin 
by Ruth Butler.
Yale, 354 pp., £18.99, July 2008, 978 0 300 12624 2
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... Claude Monet’s first breakthrough was not the ‘impression’ of a sunrise that lent its name to a movement but a full-length figure in contemporary dress that he submitted to the Salon of 1866 under the title Camille. Posed against a red curtain on a canvas more than seven feet high, a woman in a green and black striped gown and a black jacket trimmed with fur stands with her back angled towards the viewer, her face partly visible as she turns her head over her shoulder and raises one gloved hand in a gesture both elegant and ambiguous ...

England’s Ideology

Roy Porter, 5 August 1982

Coram’s Children: The London Foundling Hospital in the 18th Century 
by Ruth McClure.
Yale, 321 pp., £15, September 1981, 0 300 02465 7
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Children of the Empire 
by Gillian Wagner.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £10.95, March 1982, 0 297 78047 6
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... not have done better than launch the Foundling Hospital – which he did, its doors receiving its first infant in 1741. Till then, England – unlike other countries – had had no hospice designed for abandoned babies, though such an idea had been floated in a characteristic gesture of lay piety by Addison in the Guardian. Unlike Continental refuges for ...

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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... which Billington, before finally coming clean, presents to us with remarkable coyness. We are first told that Pinter ‘began a serious extra-marital relationship that was to last for seven years’; then that he had ‘an ongoing affair with a prominent TV journalist’; then that he and Joan Bakewell were ‘close’; finally that they had ‘an ...

Other Things

J.I.M. Stewart, 2 February 1984

Soor Hearts 
by Robert Alan Jamieson.
Paul Harris, 166 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 86228 072 9
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The Life and Loves of a She-Devil 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 240 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 9780340332283
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by Raymond Carver.
Collins, 230 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 00 222790 8
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The Cannibal Galaxy 
by Cynthia Ozick.
Secker, 162 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 436 35483 7
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The Collected Works of Jane Bowles 
introduced by Truman Capote.
Peter Owen, 476 pp., £10.95, January 1984, 0 7206 0613 6
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Let it come down 
by Paul Bowles.
Peter Owen, 318 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 7206 0614 4
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... An inexpert but frequently impressive first novel, Soor Hearts is set in Shetland in the early years of this century. Magnus Doull, having sailed before the mast for ten years, returns to the fishing village from which he had fled under suspicion of having murdered Thomas Pole. Nearly everyone believes him guilty, since the two young men had been seen to quarrel ...

Those for whom India proves too strong

Patricia Craig, 31 March 1988

Three Continents 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 384 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7195 4433 5
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... by taking over the house and all in it. Harriet, who, in spite of her brother’s enthusiasm, at first holds aloof from the Rawul’s Transcendental Internationalism and from the movement’s founders, is eventually bowled over by wily Crishi; he takes off his pyjama trousers (Indian) on a beach at midnight, and things proceed to a natural conclusion. This ...

Putting things in boxes

Adam Kuper: Margaret Mead, 24 May 2007

To Cherish the Life of the World: Selected Letters of Margaret Mead 
edited by Margaret Caffrey and Patricia Francis.
Basic Books, 429 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 0 465 00815 1
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... They also found themselves at odds with the people they were studying. When Mead and Fortune first penetrated the Sepik region it had only recently come under effective Australian control. Their bearers, coastal men, dumped their baggage as soon as they breasted the Prince Alexander mountains, leaving them stranded among an impoverished and scattered ...

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