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Cosmic Interference

Dinah Birch: Janet Davey’s Fiction, 8 October 2015

Another Mother’s Son 
by Janet Davey.
Chatto, 296 pp., £12.99, August 2015, 978 1 78474 022 1
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... Bridge (2012), Davey’s fourth novel, considers some of the troubles that accompany affluence. Anita Mostyn is born into middle-class privilege, without finding that its supposed advantages have been of any real use to her. Despite her private education and the flat her parents have helped her to buy in Chelsea, she can’t really deal with the ...


Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday , 27 May 1993

... on Graham Greene, Claire Tomalin on Coleridge, Anthony Burgess on Fielding, other reviews by Anita Brookner, Peter Conrad, Roy Foster and Hilary Mantel), and as the limits on the new paper’s resources became apparent I thought how hard it would be to put together pages of comparable stature. There was one solace: the Independent on Sunday would be ...


Elaine Showalter, 2 October 1997

Impossible Saints 
by Michèle Roberts.
Little, Brown, 308 pp., £14.99, May 1997, 0 316 63957 5
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... takes it to its fullest realisation. Roberts’s fiction is highly allusive – she can sound like Anita Brookner, Monique Wittig, Aubrey Beardsley or the Marquis de Sade – but it’s not generic. As a woman writer of the Nineties, she has inherited feminist literary criticism as well as feminist writing, and she deliberately invokes the devils and ...


Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing, 19 September 1985

... his high estimate of his or her output. This can be comic and endearing. When Haffenden praises Anita Brookner for her ‘integrity’, she offers to make him a present of it. Similarly, when he tries to cheer her up by reminding her that she is, after all, ‘successful’: ‘I dispute that,’ Brookner snarls (or ...

Female Heads

John Bayley, 27 October 1988

Woman to Woman: Female Friendship in Victorian Fiction 
by Tess Cosslett.
Harvester, 211 pp., £29.95, July 1988, 0 7108 1015 6
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Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century 
by John Mullan.
Oxford, 261 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 19 812865 7
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The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney. Vol. I: 1768-1773 
edited by Lars Troide.
Oxford, 353 pp., £45, June 1988, 9780198125815
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... or Elizabeth Taylor ignored, in their individual ways, all idea of being ‘women novelists’, as Anita Brookner does today. However ‘feminine’ their subject-matter, they don’t approach it determinedly as ‘women’. And it is ironic that Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot, themselves ignoring predecessors like Fanny Burney and Jane Austen, should ...


Wendy Steiner, 28 June 1990

The New Women and the Old Men: Love, Sex and the Women Question 
by Ruth Brandon.
Secker, 294 pp., £16.95, January 1990, 0 436 06722 6
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... ever after.’ This fairy-tale ending concludes what are otherwise chronicles of defeat – an Anita Brookner version of woman’s history, full of unhappiness, hardship, confusion, unfulfilment and self-destruction. But if only one out of all these women was ‘happy’ it might be worth questioning the notion of happiness rather than automatically ...


Theodore Zeldin, 13 June 1991

Dead Certainties 
by Simon Schama.
Granta, 334 pp., £15.99, May 1991, 0 14 014230 4
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... compulsory qualification, nor did it suggest that Iris Murdoch should have stuck to philosophy and Anita Brookner to art; nor did it examine the tradition of novel-writing by academics; going back to the Water Babies and Alice. What the Telegraph did not like was the idea that everyone had a novel in him, and could produce one in their spare time. How ...

Darts for art’s sake

Julian Symons, 28 September 1989

London Fields 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 470 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 224 02609 7
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... its material. It is aggressively masculine, would hardly do for themes handled by Iris Murdoch or Anita Brookner, might be found crude or distasteful by them. This style fits perfectly the activities of parthuman Keith, Nicola and Guy, less well the naive approach to nuclear weapons made by the writer of ‘Thinkability’, and the contradiction points ...


Julian Barnes: On the Booker, 12 November 1987

... let’s dutifully plough through these three bodice-rippers from Rudland and Stubbs, but call in Anita Brookner or Nadine Gordimer? No, no, we won’t do that, even if they have won the prize before. More than an abnegation of responsibility, this displayed a singular lack of curiosity. And while the judges annually complain about the great burden of ...

Dear Sphinx

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 December 1983

The Little Ottleys 
by Ada Leverson and Sally Beauman.
Virago, 543 pp., £3.95, November 1982, 0 86068 300 1
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The Constant Nymph 
by Margaret Kennedy and Anita Brookner.
Virago, 326 pp., £3.50, August 1983, 0 86068 354 0
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The Constant Novelist: A Study of Margaret Kennedy 1896-1967 
by Violet Powell.
Heinemann, 219 pp., £10.95, June 1983, 0 434 59951 4
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... Ada Leverson (1862-1933) said she had learned about human nature in the nursery. A little brother got her to help him make a carriage out of two chairs, but when he was taken out in a real carriage he was not in the least interested. Certainly she never under-estimated the human capacity for imagination or for disappointment. The nursery was in lavish 21 Hyde Park Square, and her father was a successful property investor ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers: Putting in the Commas, 15 September 1988

... one of Catherine Cookson’s romances. On a good day there will be one person reading a novel by Anita Brookner. But that’s about it. Among those who don’t travel on the Tube, the upper-class and the upper-middle-class read – largely books about themselves, of which there have always been plenty. People connected with the universities also read ...


Rosemary Hill: Rosamund Lehmann’s Disappointments, 8 August 2002

Rosamond Lehmann 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 476 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 6542 1
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... is projected. The novel was an exact diagnosis of her own character, but not, of course, a remedy. Anita Brookner, who became a friend late in Lehmann’s life, said that when she looked at her she saw ‘a woman sitting alone, inconsolable’. This of course is what Brookner always sees – a woman sitting alone is as ...

Narcissism and its Discontents

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 21 February 1980

Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Jean Rhys.
Deutsch, 173 pp., £4.95, November 1980, 0 233 97213 7
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Jean Rhys: A Critical Study 
by Thomas Staley.
Macmillan, 140 pp., £10, November 1980, 0 333 24522 9
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My Blue Notebooks 
by Liane de Pougy, translated by Diana Athill.
Deutsch, 288 pp., £7.50, October 1980, 0 233 97141 6
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The Maimie Papers 
edited by Ruth Rosen and Sue Davidson.
Virago, 450 pp., £9.95, September 1980, 0 86068 114 9
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Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough 
by Hugo Vickers.
Weidenfeld, 299 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 297 77652 5
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... to good use or to bad. Take Liane de Pougy, ‘celebrated cascadeuse of the Belle Epoque’, as Anita Brookner has described her. She was, for most of her life, one of the most beautiful and elegant women in France, had a triumphant career as a courtesan (‘the nation’s Liane’), married in her late thirties a Romanian prince – which didn’t ...


Pat Rogers, 6 November 1986

Hume and the Heroic Portrait: Studies in 18th-Century Imagery 
by Edgar Wind, edited by Jaynie Anderson.
Oxford, 139 pp., £29.50, May 1986, 0 19 817371 7
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Augustan Studies: Essays in honour of Irvin Ehrenpreis 
edited by Douglas Lane Patey and Timothy Keegan.
University of Delaware Press, 270 pp., £24.50, May 1986, 9780874132724
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The 18th Century: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1700-1789 
by James Sambrook.
Longman, 290 pp., £15.95, April 1986, 0 582 49306 4
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... more, time has brought a few scholarly revenges, and in this case, on somewhat technical grounds, Anita Brookner has questioned Wind’s theory of balletic influence. But the appeal of the essay lies not so much in its precise destination as in the vistas opened out along the route. Unquestionably, the major contribution to our understanding is to be ...

Was Carmen brainwashed?

Patrick Parrinder, 5 December 1985

Life goes on 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 517 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 246 12709 0
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Men and Angels 
by Mary Gordon.
Cape, 239 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 224 02998 3
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Heavenly Deception 
by Maggie Brooks.
Chatto, 299 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 9780701128647
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Love Always 
by Ann Beattie.
Joseph, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 7181 2609 2
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... on is a sequel to A Start in Life (1970 – not to be confused with a novel of the same title by Anita Brookner). In the earlier book Michael Cullen left working-class Nottingham for the metropolis, fell into the proverbial bad company, and ended up as a convicted gold-smuggler. Now, having been abandoned by his wife after ten years of idleness in the ...

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