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Human Voices [Paperback]

Penelope Fitzgerald , Mark Damazer
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

30 Jan 2014

From the Booker Prizewinning author of ‘Offshore’ and ‘The Blue Flower’; a funny, touching, authentic story of life at Broadcasting House during the Blitz.

The human voices of Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel are those of the BBC in the first years of the World War II, the time when the Concert Hall was turned into a dormitory for both sexes, the whole building became a target for enemy bombers, and in the BBC – as elsewhere – some had to fail and some had to die, but where the Nine O’Clock News was always delivered, in impeccable accents, to the waiting nation.

Frequently Bought Together

Human Voices + Offshore + The Bookshop
Price For All Three: £19.97

Buy the selected items together
  • Offshore £6.39
  • The Bookshop £6.39

Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (30 Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006542549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006542544
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 176,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. Three of her novels, The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the Prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award.
She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty three.

Product Description


‘Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality – the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.’ Sebastian Faulks

‘Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.’ David Nicholls

‘Of all the novelists of the last quarter-century, she has the most unarguable claim on greatness. [It has been] a career we, as readers, can only count ourselves lucky to have lived through.’ Philip Hensher, Spectator

‘One of the pleasures of reading Penelope Fitzgerald is the unpredictability of her intelligence, which never loses its quality, but springs constant surprises, and if you make the mistake of reading her fast because she is so readable, you will miss some of the best jokes. This is a very funny novel.’ The Times

‘Comic, and sometimes extraordinarily sad.’ A.S. Byatt, TLS

From the Publisher

From the reviews of Human Voices
"One of the pleasures of reading Penelope Fitzgerald is the unpredicatability of her intelligence, which never loses its quality but springs constant surprises, and if you make the mistake of reading her fast because she is so readable, you will miss some of her best jokes. I wish it were longer...for it is certainly a very funny novel about the BBC, and that in itself is an occasion for joy." Michael Ratcliffe, The Times

"A delightfully whimsical account of life in Portland Place during the London blitz...there are some very funny incidents and passages, and delicious insights into the quirkiness of human behaviour under stress." Nina Bawden, Daily Telegraph

"It is hard to describe the peculiar quality of Penelope Fitzgerald's gift. Human Voices is comic, and sometimes extraordinarily sad... I enjoyed it very much." A.S.Byatt, TLS

"Made me laugh out loud as I have hardly done since Cold Comfort Farm. Brilliantly funny." Marghanita Laski, Country Life

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite lightness of touch 21 Oct 2011
By R. Wood
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's a small corner of the WW2 Home Front but one Penelope Fitzgerald knew from personal experience - the Transcription Department of BBC Broadcasting House at the beginning of the London Blitz. Public broadcasting is less than twenty years old but working for the BBC is essential war work, like joining the Women's Land Army or volunteering for the Auxiliary Fire Service. With exquisite lightness of touch Fitzgerald blends the eccentricities of the BBC's Old Servants with the randomness of life as the bombs starts to fall. 'Human Voices' captivated me from start to finish and I am busily tracking down more of Fitzgerald's work. I'm particularly looking forward to her biography of that distinctly odd Victorian painter, Burne-Jones.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best ever book about the BBC 1 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is without doubt the best book, ever, about the BBC, full of archetypes who are as alive now as they were in the wartime period she describes. Funny, memorable and achingly true.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The TRUTH, usually 1 Dec 2002
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
Ms. Fitzgerald actually did work for the BBC during WWII, and while there was at least one annoying trait, I found the book to be her wittiest I have read. My complaint has to do with the use of acronyms; if you worked at the BBC this will not be an issue. But when used liberally, in a compact novel that defines how she writes, there is little time to learn them. "CJ get me AJ the SECDEF, RJ the SECTRES, ASAP, for a get together at MOJ, PDQ...OK? The PPA, and 2 JPA'S, should attend as well." Usually this sort of banter is reserved for a Tom Clancy Novel.

The book ended with a great bang like many of her works, but this time we are not left wondering if the book we are holding is a few pages short. There still is more to unfold for some central characters, but this time the reader decides whether or not to pursue a continuance.

The TRUTH is the mission the BBC is on. To broadcast this and nothing else, not even speeches by the King that have been mended to delete his stutter. However in one of the funniest passages of the book, a French general feels compelled to share the "truth" with England and the English he so loves. Fortunately for both country and citizens alike, and to the amusement of the PM, he had the plugs pulled upon him.

Since Ms. Fitzgerald did work at the BBC, it offers an additional avenue for thought. Simply stated, how much is true, how many of these people actually lived, and how much was pure fiction. It is a tribute to her writing that the reader is unsure. By writing as she has, whether in a complimentary manner, or unflattering, I doubt some of the subjects would recognize themselves.

Another novel, without repetition, that demonstrates the vast skill this woman commanded.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My mother was a close colleague of Penelope Fitzgerald's in the department depicted in this terrific quirky book, and she can confirm that it's a wickedly accurate description of the atmosphere, activities and personnel, particularly of the young-lady-loving director!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top class brain 20 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A pleasure to have contact with a superb first class brain masquerading as a light comic novel. I will read others of her.
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3.0 out of 5 stars despite having loved Offshore and The Blue Flower 14 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Afraid I struggled with this one, despite having loved Offshore and The Blue Flower, by the same author.
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