This very good autobiography by one of our great biographers has a truly terrible photograph of herself on the cover. Claire Tomalin looks tired, as if she's not been looking after herself; she's irritated and preoccupied, but also patient. This is the face of a woman who had recently been widowed, with four children to … Continue reading Claire Tomalin, A Life of My Own
Once again, Kathleen Jamie's prose is a deep immersive pleasure, the kind of writing that stays with you for days. She's a poet and knows how to compress emotion and meaning into letters and pauses. I loved her Sightlines and Findings, both collections of essays and short pieces. This, earlier, book is, I think, even better. … Continue reading Kathleen Jamie, Among Muslims
This is a beautiful Little Toller production, a country yearbook from the 1930s, in which the sublime engraver and illustrator Clare Leighton and her husband took on a Buckinghamshire cottage and its garden. They still went to London to work at their professions, but lived part of the week, or month, in the cottage, and … Continue reading Clare Leighton, Four Hedges
I bought this book because I wanted to patch the gaps in my reading about immigration, and Lovers and Strangers deals with the 1950s to the present day. Although the book is marketed as focused on the Windrush generation, it's much more complex than that, and does a very welcome job of showing how immigration … Continue reading Clair Wills, Lovers and Strangers. An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain
The only things I knew about Angelica Garnett before I read this autobiography were (1) that she was the daughter of Vanessa Bell and her lover Duncan Grant, and (2) that her eventual husband David Garnett had announced that he would marry Angelica on first meeting her, in her cradle. Deceived With Kindness suggests that … Continue reading Angelica Garnett, Deceived with Kindness. A Bloomsbury Childhood
I must be one of the last people among the middlebrow fanciers to have read Beverley Nichols. He is perfect bedtime reading: light, frivolous, witty, of an earlier period so there won't be anything nasty in the woodshed, and unexpectedly moving. I first noticed his existence in a delightfully poisonous parody in Leonard Russell's immortal … Continue reading The shrine of Beverley Nichols: should one worship?
Some time ago in Penguin New Writing John Lehmann asked for funny stories to print. He also suggested that both women and men would be leaping to their desks at the end of war to write the fiction they’d been bottling up during the war years. None of this is showing in what he’s publishing … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 33: Getting over the war