on 12 July 2010
This is a brilliantly written, deeply researched and sometimes shocking biography of one of the twentieth century's best-selling and best-loved writers for children, and adults. An extraordinarily creative life, full of drama and achievement, which also reveals the creator of Little Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig to be, rather thrillingly, a bit of a monster.
on 16 June 2013
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
Uttley led a mainly uneventful life. Her country childhood and university career are the most interesting sections of this unsatisfactory biography. Once she is established as a writer, the book becomes merely a list of her publications and earnings.
I get the impression that Judd is not really interested in his subject. There is a feeling, particularly towards the end of the book, that is he writing on autopilot; he makes the glaring error on p259 of asserting that Uttley "passed her driving test in 1971" when she had already done so in the 1950s.
We are told that Uttley was a difficult, demanding woman who smothered her son with love and was instrumental in preventing his first marriage taking place. She had a rocky relationship with Margaret Tempest whose illustrations for the 'Little Grey Rabbit' books contributed greatly to their success. And yet, Judd never really gets to the heart of the woman Alison Uttley, to understand what made her tick.
Judd makes no attempt to analyse why Uttley was so successful as a writer. Some examination of an alleged similarity with the works of Beatrix Potter, with whom she was frequently compared, might have been illuminating. Judd does not place Uttley within the context of the children's literature of her time. A critique of her extensive writing on country matters would have been useful too, particularly as this is a genre of English writing that has all but disappeared and Uttley may well have been one of its last exponents.
Some people's lives are simply not full of enough incident and interest to warrant a 300 page book being devoted to them. Alison Uttley is one of these. A good entry in a 'Dictionary of National Biography' would be sufficient.