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Incidence of Incest

Edmund Leach, 19 February 1981

The Red Lamp of Incest: A Study in the Origins of Mind and Society 
by Robin Fox.
Hutchinson, 271 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 09 144080 7
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Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and its Devastation 
by Susan Forward and Craig Buck.
Penguin, 154 pp., £1.95, February 1981, 0 14 022287 1
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... a perennial fascination and they will doubtless both sell well. I am personally more attracted by Susan Forward’s modestly presented case-histories than by Robin Fox’s pretentious fantasies, but there is more meat for discussion in the latter’s argument, so let us start there. Once, long ago, Robin Fox was trained as a British social ...
Nothing to Forgive: A Daughter’s Life of Antonia White 
by Lyndall Hopkinson.
Chatto, 376 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 7011 2969 7
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... They are perhaps more so now, having recently been reissued and made into a television serial. Susan Chitty, the elder daughter, was first off the mark in 1985 with ‘a very personal memoir, not a biography’.* ‘Antonia White was not a good mother to me,’ she begins, and goes on to say that her ‘four novels were largely autobiographical, so much so ...


Robert Taubman, 5 August 1982

by John Barth.
Secker, 366 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 0 436 03675 4
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Distant Relations 
by Carlos Fuentes.
Secker, 225 pp., £7.95, July 1982, 0 436 16764 6
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Keepers of the House 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 183 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 0 224 02001 3
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An Old Song 
by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Wilfion Books, 102 pp., £5.95, June 1982, 0 905075 12 9
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... is full of information, for instance, about sailing in the Chesapeake Bay. In the summer of 1980 Susan and Fenwick Turner are returning in their cruising sailboat from a nine-month voyage to the Caribbean. Sabbatical is as devotedly a novel about sailing as The Riddle of the Sands; and like that rather staid classic it uses a sailing trip to get its crew ...

Ski Lift

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, 5 April 1990

... But we stay someone’s child for ever, And you could change time, stop it, add to it, Turn it forward, back, it was your property, you owned it Like this watch. Come back, but you won’t, I know it, not even in dreams. No one ever does, No curtain calls for this family’s stubborn mules. Gone is gone. I don’t believe it but I will. So people ...

Up and doing

Susan Brigden, 6 August 1992

Fire from Heaven: Life in an English Town in the 17th Century 
by David Underdown.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £17.99, May 1992, 0 00 215865 5
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... probably more common.’ Much hangs on that ‘probably’. How are we to tell? As with most forward movements in history, the godly reformation may have passed by those who, in their poverty and distress, had literally no time for it. The poor are likely to remain dispossessed of their history, as of much else, but Professor Underdown has performed a ...


Susan McKay: Breakdown in Power-Sharing, 8 March 2018

... and May seem disinclined to intervene, instead urging both parties to ‘reflect on the best way forward to re-establish devolved government in Northern Ireland’. Wishful thinking, Sinn Féin says. All this means that there will be no Northern Ireland Executive when the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is marked at the beginning of ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... Benjamin​ Moser begins his biography with a bang: ‘Susan Sontag was America’s last great literary star.’ In my gaudier moments I prefer to think of Sontag as American literature’s first and last great screen star. Transcending staid text, she was projected into the avid imaginations of legions of onlookers who didn’t know Walter Benjamin from Walter Brennan ...


Susan McKay: Soldier Dolls in Belfast, 21 April 2016

... No one has ever been charged with her murder.) Men who killed or abused women sometimes put forward ludicrous defences. One said he’d killed his wife because she wouldn’t stop ‘chattering’. We constantly drew attention to efforts made during rape trials to use a woman’s sexual history to undermine her evidence. In one case the barrister for ...


Susan McKay: Pro-­Union Non­-Unionists, 4 March 2021

... after Labour MPs, working with local campaigners, exploited Stormont’s suspension to bring forward amendments to legislation in the British Parliament. (The DUP is happy enough to support a border in the Irish Sea when it comes to some things.)On 5 December, a melancholy parade passed through the centre of Belfast. The march marked the eighth ...

Britain’s Second Most Famous Nurse

Susan Pedersen: Edith Cavell, 14 April 2011

Edith Cavell 
by Diana Souhami.
Quercus, 417 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 1 84916 359 0
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... away much that remains puzzling about her behaviour. The sheer narrative force of the story sweeps forward, as strutting cardboard Germans capture, interrogate, seek to intimidate but fail to break a woman motivated only by altruism. It is an engrossing tale, and in its persistent discounting of patriotism one for our time, but I would have liked more caution ...


Stanley Uys: Bush’s Bag, 7 August 2003

... from a ‘horrific’ situation, the Bush Administration was loath to send in a peacemaking force. Susan Rice, the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Clinton, said she failed to ‘understand what they’re waiting for’. But it was plain enough – Bush wanted Charles Taylor to pack his bags and the whole Liberian mess to go ...

Only Men in Mind

Susan Pedersen: R.H. Tawney, 21 August 2014

The Life of R.H. Tawney 
by Lawrence Goldman.
Bloomsbury, 411 pp., £65, September 2013, 978 1 78093 704 5
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... of the time: with the Liberal Industrial Inquiry of 1928 or the brilliant socialist proposal put forward by the ILP in 1926 under the title The Living Wage. There, we find a plan to use redistributive policies (specifically child benefit paid to mothers) to spark demand in sectors – agriculture, textiles – in serious crisis, a plan that creatively ...

Parcelled Out

Ferdinand Mount: The League of Nations, 22 October 2015

The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire 
by Susan Pedersen.
Oxford, 571 pp., £22.99, June 2015, 978 0 19 957048 5
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... the Pax Britannica into a Pax Mundi.’ The British were not alone in feeling like this, for, as Susan Pedersen points out in her magnificent study, the absentees turned the League of Nations into ‘a League of Empires’, its proceedings dominated by Britain and France, but with a hefty input from other colonial powers – Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium ...

On Robert Silvers

Andrew O’Hagan: Remembering Robert Silvers, 20 April 2017

... mean Frank Sinatra and Studio 54, it meant Alfred Kazin and Lionel Trilling, Lillian Hellman and Susan Sontag. I loved its papers, the swagger of the contributors, the New York intellectuals, with their neuroses, their arguments, their marriages, and their parties. Wilson’s disagreement with Nabokov, Lillian’s fight with Mary, and Norman’s fights with ...

Sam, Caroline, Janet, Stella, Len, Helen and Bob

Susan Pedersen: Mass Observation, 21 September 2017

Seven Lives from Mass Observation: Britain in the Late 20th Century 
by James Hinton.
Oxford, 207 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 19 878713 6
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... is not the reason I, for one, read history. You can admire Hinton’s achievement but still look forward to historians bringing some rather different questions to the Mass Observation ...

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