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June 23, 2010

An important tradition of English writers

“But the novels also belong to an important tradition of English writers, mostly women – Elizabeth Bowen and Elizabeth Taylor and Rumer Godden and Penelope Fitzgerald among them – whose subject is the old world of class and empire, and the systems of education and intricate cultural codes that supported it. Sharing that world’s know-how, vigilant over its precise local expertise, these writers nonetheless never quite belong with both feet inside it, or quite participate in its whole power; they survey it from a position sanely detached, defined by irony. They find that freedom perhaps because they’re Anglo-Irish, or Anglo-Indian, or penniless, or from the north (a significant marker for Gardam), perhaps simply because they’re women. They relish the framework that the codes give (‘life with the lid on’, in Bowen’s phrase), and do justice to the best that these embodied, but never forget the inequity, or the costs of forcing life into rigid forms.” –from “Thank God for Betty” by Tessa Hadley, LRB Vol. 32 No. 5 · 11 March 2010

2 thoughts on “An important tradition of English writers”

  1. Study Window says:

    Was this from an article about Jane Gardam? The first thing I thought when I read the opening lines was you could put Gardam in with those. I’ve loved her work ever since she was writing for small children. ‘Horse’ is a minor masterpiece. Do you know it?

    1. Kerry says:

      Yes! I’ve never read her before, but have been waiting on The Man in the Wooden Hat at the library for some time. She seems like a writer I would really love…

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