17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
a wonderful collection,
This review is from: So I Have Thought of You: The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald (Hardcover)These letters, which are probably the last we'll hear from one of the most nuanced, least imitable voices of recent decades, are lit from start to finish by the intelligence, warmth and sense of life's (often comic) pathos which characterised everything Fitzgerald wrote. The collection is divided into two equally fascinating parts. The first, which comprises Fitzgerald's letters to her family and closest friends, is remarkable for the detailed portrait it manages to give, despite her habitual self-effacement and the large gaps in her correspondence. Here we see her as a loving and attentive mother, a generous friend, and - of particular interest, given that she didn't start publishing books until her late fifties - as a witty and charismatic young woman. In the second part, which covers Fitzgerald's writing life, we learn how brusquely she was treated, early in her career, by publishers and members of the literary establishment (and - a surprise to those of us who can't remember the days before a Booker win brought with it immediate fame and fortune - that she had to go on teaching for several years after receiving the prize); as well as a wealth of information about her unfinished biographies of L.P. Hartley and the Poetry Bookshop. The preface by A.S. Byatt and the introduction by Terence Dooley provide tantalising glimpses of Fitzgerald from the perspectives of those who knew her personally (Byatt was her colleague at Westminster Tutors, a college preparing students for the old Oxbridge entrance exams, long before either had established their literary reputations; Dooley was her son-in-law), as well as a few startling insights into her fiction - who knew, for example, that the name Annie Asra, in Human Voices, was an allusion to a poem by Heine? - which, along with the clues and intimations contained in the letters themselves, have sent me right back to the novels, with an even greater respect for the depth of her achievement.
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Initial post: 3 Dec 2008 18:32:07 GMT
Excellent review; thanks.
Posted on 10 May 2009 06:19:19 BDT
Thanks for this excellent review - loved The Bookshop, but have just read The Blue Flower, and am completely blown away by it - I don't often want to know too much about authors' lives, but I feel drawn to Penelope Fitzgerald, and this collection of letters sounds very appealing - thanks so much for reviewing it so well!
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