Paulie lops it off

Elisa Segrave

  • The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan
    Granta, 237 pp, £8.99, October 1993, ISBN 0 14 014081 6

I met Susan Swan, the author of this novel about a girls’ boarding-school, in a women’s dormitory on a holistic holiday in Greece. Apart from Susan, there was Tessa, a potter from Brixton, a German called Ingrid and Marjorie, an aromatherapist from Liverpool. Susan was a cut above the rest of us. She had been invited as a teacher of creative writing and had then been given the special status of literary consultant. While the other teachers taught mime, self-healing, massage, Tai-Chi and wind-surfing in groups, beginning at 7 a.m., Susan saw aspiring writers one at a time in the café on the beach, where she sat in a stately way sipping Greek coffee. She seemed to have thought deeply about writing, how it related to one’s life, and about the relations between men and women. She quickly assumed the role of big sister, school prefect, or even the witch, the one with magic powers. I had two sessions with her: she showed me a way of analysing dreams; and, as women often do, we discussed the opposite sex.

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