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Utterly Oyster

Andrew O’Hagan: Fergie-alike, 12 August 2021

The Bench 
by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, illustrated by Christian Robinson.
Puffin, 40 pp., £12.99, May, 978 0 241 54221 7
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Her Heart for a Compass 
by Sarah, Duchess of York.
Mills & Boon, 549 pp., £14.99, August, 978 0 00 838360 2
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... After that we get a bit of backstory, all about Lady Margaret being best pals with Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter and an abject little snob, plus several pages about how she wants to be a free spirit. I know this is 1865, and I know the author is 61, but this interlude allows some millennial light to seep in: Lady Margaret is ...

Middle-Class Hair

Carolyn Steedman: A New World for Women, 19 October 2017

... is contemplating a feather duster (if that’s what it is). ‘I felt doomed to defeat,’ Sarah, Louise’s more academic sister, says in Drabble’s first novel, A Summer Bird-Cage (1963). ‘I felt all women were doomed. Louise thought she wasn’t but she was. It would get her in the end, some version of it.’ Is the ...

Sergeant Farthing

D.A.N. Jones, 17 October 1985

A Maggot 
by John Fowles.
Cape, 460 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 224 02806 5
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The Romances of John Fowles 
by Simon Loveday.
Macmillan, 164 pp., £25, August 1985, 0 333 31518 9
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... A girl and three men are riding westward from London when a fifth rider joins them, a man in a red coat and dragoon’s hat. The year is 1736 and they are on horseback. Arriving at a Devonshire country inn, they tell the innkeeper and an intrusive parson about themselves and the purpose of their journey, but we suspect them of lying ...

At the Nunnery Gallery

Eleanor Birne: Madge Gill, 24 January 2013

... her two sons; she had been making things like it for thirty years. She was born illegitimate in London in 1882; her mother had her fostered and she spent a few years in an orphanage before being sent to work on a farm in Canada. She came back to East London when she was 18, to live with her aunt Kate, a medium who held ...

The Virgin

David Plante, 3 April 1986

... her breasts, she said, ‘Bye.’ At his desk in the office, he took from a bottom drawer the London telephone directory, S to Z, and just when his eyes stopped, with a sinking feeling as if having to face a choice which would mean the loss of everything he had, on the bold lettering VENEREAL DISEASES, a colleague came to the desk and Charles shut the ...

Settling down

Karl Miller, 20 November 1980

Young Emma 
by W.H. Davies.
Cape, 158 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 224 01853 1
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... less truthful book of the two. Conscious of himself as a creative genius, Davies was cultivated by London bookmen and clubmen as a natural in another sense again: as an untutored talent from the depths of the common people. Such phoenixes are, of course, a traditional and ancient thing, and the line taken in Shaw’s Introduction belongs to a long history of ...


Vadim Nikitin, 21 February 2019

Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World and How to Take It Back 
by Oliver Bullough.
Profile, 304 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 1 78125 792 0
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Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy Is Threatening Our Future 
by Louise Shelley.
Princeton, 376 pp., £24, October 2018, 978 0 691 17018 3
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... it’s untethered to geography: ‘Wherever money is stolen from, it ends up in the same places: London, New York, Miami,’ Bullough writes. ‘And wherever it ends up, it is laundered in the same ways, through shell companies or other legal structures in the same handful of jurisdictions.’ Bullough’s core argument is that international criminal elites ...


Peter Campbell, 5 January 1989

The Letter of Marque 
by Patrick O’Brian.
Collins, 284 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 9780241125434
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by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 347 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 241 12527 8
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From Rockaway 
by Jill Eisenstadt.
Penguin, 214 pp., £3.99, September 1988, 0 14 010347 3
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The High Road 
by Edna O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £10.95, October 1988, 0 297 79493 0
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Loving and Giving 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 226 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 223 98346 2
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by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9780241125434
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... Indian tribe – allows kinds of complexity to develop which novels of middle-class life exclude. Louise Erdrich’s knowledge of the Chippewa Nation is coupled with a gift for characterisation which can make strange loves, conflicts and rages seem native to the realistic novel. One is also grateful for Jill Eisenstadt’s more straightforward ability to use ...

I want it, but not yet

Clair Wills: ‘Checkout 19’, 12 August 2021

Checkout 19 
by Claire-Louise Bennett.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 78733 354 3
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... Claire-Louise​ Bennett is unpacking her library. Yes, she is. The books are not yet on the shelves. In fact, she doesn’t really have any shelves (she prefers to let the books pile up around her, a habit that gets her into trouble with at least one boorish lover). She has moved so often over the years that half her books are lost, having been packed into boxes and left in unremembered attics ...

Auld Lang Syne

Graham Hough, 1 December 1983

Sebastian or Ruling Passions 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 202 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13445 9
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Woman Beware Woman 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 176 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 224 02164 8
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Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Picador, 159 pp., £2.50, September 1983, 0 330 28074 0
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Blue Rise 
by Rebecca Hill.
Joseph, 296 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 7181 2372 7
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Here to get my baby out of jail 
by Louise Shivers.
Collins, 141 pp., £6.95, October 1983
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... which this is. The scene is Ireland. Minnie, the narrator, is summoned from a dreary life in London to go back after ten years’ absence to the house on the west coast where she has spent much of her childhood. It is the residence of Hugo Pierce, the celebrated novelist. But Hugo has just been found dead in the neighbouring woods, and Minnie is needed ...

Poles Apart

John Sutherland, 5 May 1983

Give us this day 
by Janusz Glowacki, translated by Konrad Brodzinski.
Deutsch, 121 pp., £6.95, March 1983, 0 233 97518 7
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In Search of Love and Beauty 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 227 pp., £8.50, April 1983, 0 7195 4062 3
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by Sally Emerson.
Joseph, 174 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7181 2134 1
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Flying to Nowhere 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 89 pp., £4.95, March 1983, 0 907540 27 9
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Some prefer nettles 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Secker, 155 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 436 51603 9
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The Makioka Sisters 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Secker, 530 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 330 28046 5
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‘The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi’ and ‘Arrowroot’ 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Anthony Chambers.
Secker, 199 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 436 51602 0
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... effects are those of charm and pathos. In the narrative’s front rank are a trio of characters. Louise is familial: she has husband, children and grandchildren. Regi is a social butterfly: she has gigolos even in her incontinent bedridden old age. Other than her childhood friend Louise, Regi sustains no attachments. Both ...
Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History 
by Vron Ware.
Verso, 263 pp., £34.95, February 1992, 0 86091 336 8
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Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation 
by Mary Louise Pratt.
Routledge, 257 pp., £35, January 1992, 9780415026758
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... by learning Bengali and taking a course for governesses at the Home and Colonial College in London. What followed after her arrival in India reads like the plot of a Ruth Prawer Jhabvala novel. Finding it easy to dislike the memsahibs and missionaries she met in Calcutta, Ackroyd unexpectedly found it easy to dislike the Indians too. Acquiring premises ...

At Charleston

Emily LaBarge: Nina Hamnett, 1 July 2021

... of early still lifes are apparently influenced by William Nicholson, who taught Hamnett at the London School of Art, though her paintings have none of his opulence and clarity. Rather, they are tightly cropped compositions in which objects and forms are flattened and simplified. Planes shift and tilt in compressed geometries; colours are muted and ...

At the V&A

Marina Warner: Alexander McQueen, 4 June 2015

... are gathered: beautiful, doomed, striving, Dionysiac youth (though McQueen was a plain-looking London boy, he was dusted in the eyes of his audience with the glitter of his creations and he liked to pose for the camera in different guises, one very alarming image showing him with a skull mask covering his lower face). His clothes stir uneasy and morbid ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter Campbell: Caravaggio, 8 February 2001

... pictures and only later became more scholarly. Their origins were varied: auction sales in London of pictures that left France after the Revolution; Napoleon’s loot, shown in the Louvre as his campaigns continued; the efforts of clubs of connoisseurs (e.g. the Burlington Fine Arts Club), whose exhibitions were eventually taken over by the Royal ...

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