Many years ago I bought a curiosity in a book sale: The Book of Beauty, published in 1961 by the newspaper magnate George Newnes, and edited by Eileen Allen. It’s still available on rare book sites but I’ve never seen it anywhere else, and it has fascinated me. The photographs are particularly arresting, the kind of … Continue reading The Book of Beauty
Was this the original baggy monster of a novel? It's huge, and quite baggy, and has no place on my shelves now that I've read it, because its vastness is not matched by re-readability. However, some parts are very good indeed, so it's a patchy reading experience. I found myself skipping the rather tedious romance … Continue reading Arnold Bennett, Imperial Palace
This excellent book is the missing link (though obviously it hasn’t been missing at all to those who’ve known it for thirty years), between Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and Mary Beard’s Women & Power. Published in 1983, it is a perfect blend of feminist insight and great intellectual clarity, and is a … Continue reading Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing
Now that I'm no longer applying for jobs in academia, I feel free to say this: I don't like what the Virginia Woolf industry has done to the scholarly study of women writers. I should also say that, while I don't much like her novels, Woolf's essays have influenced me, and I reread them for … Continue reading The Virginia Woolf industry is a problem
I think I must have read this Angela Thirkell novel first when I was 13, stuck in bed with mumps, and very bored. It entranced me. The tiresome adult children converging on the beleaguered and saintly mother; the glow of perfection cast over the rightful landowning classes; the crashing irruption of the Adams family into … Continue reading Angela Thirkell’s The Headmistress
This is a memoir by the first female professor in the UK, Edith Morley, Professor of English Language at the University of Reading. It’s an essential read for anyone exploring the history of women’s higher education in Britain, and for those keen on reliving the struggles of women to make headway in a profession that … Continue reading Edith Morley’s Before and After. Reminiscences of a Working Life
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?