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Worrying Wives

Helen King: The Invention of Sparta, 7 August 2003

Spartan Women 
by Sarah Pomeroy.
Oxford, 198 pp., £45, July 2002, 0 19 513066 9
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... beautiful women’, famous for their height and their healthy good looks; most famous of all was Helen, who was ‘of Sparta’ before she became ‘of Troy’. Aristotle wrote that female excellence was best expressed in beauty, and the materials gathered by Pomeroy suggest that Spartan women were as interested in it as the next woman. The patchy nature of ...

Private Thomas

Andrew Motion, 19 December 1985

Edward Thomas: A Portrait 
by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 331 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 19 818527 8
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... still further by discovering that ‘some years before her death’ Edward Thomas’s ‘widow Helen gave her friend George Thomas open access to all her papers which included some eighteen hundred letters’. Here at last, we are made to think, is the definitive account of one of the century’s most important writers: important for his intrinsic ...

Gorgon in Furs

D.D. Guttenplan: Paula Fox, 12 December 2002

Borrowed Finery: A Memoir 
by Paula Fox.
Flamingo, 256 pp., £12, August 2002, 0 00 713724 9
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... translations that have kept her occupied. The couple have no children. They do have a Mercedes, a small sailing boat, a country house and a brownstone in an up-and-coming neighbourhood – Fox deftly exposes the sordid reality of this estate agent’s cliché. Across the backyard, on ‘the slum street’, the Bentwoods’ neighbours relieve themselves out of ...

No One Left to Kill

Thomas Jones: Achilles, 24 May 2001

by Elizabeth Cook.
Methuen, 116 pp., £12.99, March 2001, 0 413 75740 4
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... arrow that pierces his heel. After the funeral, the fall of Troy – which Cook tells mostly from Helen’s point of view. When Yeats wrote, in ‘Leda and the Swan’, ‘A shudder in the loins engenders there/The broken wall, the burning roof and tower/ And Agamemnon dead,’ he was thinking as much of Clytemnestra as of ...

The Suitcase: Part Three

Frances Stonor Saunders, 10 September 2020

... memory of the packing up of our home, just that I was standing on the pavement outside holding a small, colourful box whose lid closed with a tiny brass latch, into which I had put IMPORTANT THINGS: a charm in the form of a watermill whose wheel actually turned, a bright red gobstopper (illegal), a polished stone egg. I was reluctant to let the box go ...

Growing up

Dinah Birch, 20 April 1989

Passing on 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 210 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 233 98388 0
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The man who wasn’t there 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 158 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 86068 891 7
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The Sugar Mother 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 210 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 670 82435 6
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Give them all my love 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hutchinson, 244 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 09 173919 5
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Storm in the Citadel 
by Kate Saunders.
Cape, 293 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 224 02606 2
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... is not there. Dorothy Glover, a woman of formidable selfishness, is dead. She had three children: Helen, resigned to middle-aged unfulfilment; Edward, who has displaced his meek passions into worries about the environment; and the rebellious Louise, the only one who has succeeded in producing a family of her own. It soon becomes clear that Dorothy’s ...

Our Little Duckie

Thomas Jones: Margaret Atwood, 17 November 2005

The Penelopiad 
by Margaret Atwood.
Canongate, 199 pp., £12, October 2005, 1 84195 645 7
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... when she was 15. Various men compete for her by running a race, which Odysseus wins by cheating. Helen, already married to Menelaus, is unpleasant about it. ‘I think Odysseus would make a very suitable husband for our little duckie,’ she says. ‘She likes the quiet life . . . She can help him look after his goats. She and Odysseus are two of a ...


Gabriele Annan: Gish Jen’s Jokes, 6 January 2000

Who's Irish 
by Gish Jen.
Granta, 209 pp., £9.99, July 1999, 1 86207 276 0
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... always a step ahead of Ralph. He marries a Chinese friend of hers called Hailan, who becomes Helen. Helen is very young, and was brought up rich and sheltered in China, so she starts several steps behind Ralph (in adaptability, that is), but soon overtakes him. The Revolution cuts them all off from their ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Sokal 2.0, 25 October 2018

... Earlier​ this month, a small storm hit social media when it was revealed that a number of cultural studies journals had been the victims of a massive hoax. Three collaborators had submitted twenty ‘bat-shit insane’ papers – as they described them – to places like Gender, Place and Culture and Sex Roles. Four of the papers were published, and another three had been accepted for publication ...

Mr Dug-out and His Lady

Helen McCarthy: Woman’s Kingdom, 19 November 2020

Endell Street: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran World War One’s Most Remarkable Military Hospital 
by Wendy Moore.
Atlantic, 376 pp., £17.99, April, 978 1 78649 584 6
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... the Edwardian suffrage movement, the two women had reason to celebrate a reform they had played no small part in bringing about. The eyecatching and well-publicised war service performed by British women over the previous four years had slowly recast the suffrage debate. Patriotic displays of civic duty – from making munitions to tilling the land – made ...

At Sadie Coles

Brian Dillon: Helen Marten, 21 October 2021

... and there’s interesting: sometimes you just get lost. The first work I saw by the British artist Helen Marten, about eight years ago, was a sculpture resembling a makeshift desk or lectern, on and around which were strewn various baked goods, a sheet of beaten copper and a pile of pizzeria flyers showing Gerhard Richter’s 1988 painting Betty. The piece was ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader, 16 February 1989

Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... international figures such as Patrick White, Thomas Keneally and now Peter Carey crowds a small army – a second wave, as it were – of grant-garlanded and prize-bedecked novelists and storytellers, many of whom, especially those whose reputations derive initially from short fiction, have benefited from the Board’s largesse. The recent publication ...


Jenny Turner, 24 October 1991

Gaudi Afternoon 
by Barbara Wilson.
Virago, 172 pp., £4.99, August 1991, 1 85381 264 1
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The players come again 
by Amanda Cross.
Virago, 229 pp., £12.99, August 1991, 1 85381 306 0
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Poetic Justice 
by Amanda Cross.
Virago, 176 pp., £4.99, August 1991, 1 85381 025 8
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Birth Marks 
by Sarah Dunant.
Joseph, 230 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 7181 3511 3
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Burn Marks 
by Sara Paretsky.
Virago, 340 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 9781853812798
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Deep Sleep 
by Frances Fyfield.
Heinemann, 198 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 0 434 27426 7
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... disposable wealth was greatly enhanced by the false-spring media and finance boom of the Eighties, small, independent publishers, able to expand thanks to the self-same boom, fall over themselves to plug the gap. Virago Crime, Women’s Press Science Fiction, and a welter of smaller, now failed imprints, were and are a mixture of the odd inspired reprint, a ...

Surviving the Reformation

Helen Cooper: Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, 15 October 1998

The Beggar and the Professor: A 16th-Century Family Saga 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Chicago, 407 pp., £11.95, June 1998, 0 226 47324 4
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... from the house of the aunts who were raising him into the snow and almost froze to death; still a small child, he was hauled up from a ledge by a courageous older companion after he had fallen down a rockface while tending goats. He spent his teens wandering Central Europe with a group of other young vagabonds, looking for an education and surviving by ...

On the Dizzy Edge

Merve Emre: Helen Garner, 21 March 2019

Monkey Grip 
by Helen Garner.
Text, 333 pp., £14.99, January 2019, 978 1 925773 15 6
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The Children’s Bach 
by Helen Garner.
Text, 160 pp., £12.99, October 2018, 978 1 925773 04 0
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... To read​ a novel by Helen Garner is to intrude on characters living their lives with no regard for your presence. You wander into their stories with the same sense of abandon with which they wander into Melbourne flophouses, drug dens, the homes of old and new lovers. ‘In the old brown house on the corner, a mile from the middle of the city, we ate bacon for breakfast every morning of our lives,’ begins Garner’s first novel, Monkey Grip (1977), whose narrator, Nora, ushers you to the kitchen table then leaves you to pick your way through the raucous crowd gathered there in the summer of 1975 ...

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