Anne Chisholm rss

Henrietta Bingham holds the whip hand with Stephen Tomlin at Ham Spray, home of Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington

Good stories of bad Bloomsbury behaviour

27 June 2015
Bloomsbury Outsider: A Life of David Garnett Sarah Knights

Bloomsbury, pp.632, £19.99, ISBN: 9781448215454

Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham Emily Bingham

Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, pp.384, £18.99,, ISBN: 9780809094646

In March 1923 a large birthday party was held in a studio in Bloomsbury. It is often assumed that the eponymous Group was habitually glum or intense; but there were… Read more


Germaine Greer's mad, passionate quest to heal Australia

8 February 2014
White Beech Germaine Greer

Bloomsbury, pp.370, £25, ISBN: 9781408846711

Like an old woman in a fairy story, Germaine Greer, now in her late seventies, has taken to lurking in a forest. Always inclined to reinterpret the world through her… Read more

Woman in black: Madeleine St John, due for revival. 
‘Her steadiest relationships were with a series of cats’

Breakdowns, suicide attempts — and four great novels

18 January 2014
Madeleine Helen Trinca

Text Publishing, pp.384, £12.99, ISBN: 9781921922848

Among the clever young Australians who came over here in the 1960s to find themselves and make their mark, a number, as we all know, never went back. A few… Read more

Almost English, by Charlotte Mendelson - review

7 September 2013
Almost English Charlotte Mendelson

Mantle, pp.390, £16.99, ISBN: 9781447219972

Novels about growing up have two great themes: loss of innocence and the forging of identity. With this sparky, sharp-eyed and  often painfully funny novel, her fourth,  Charlotte Mendelson (winner… Read more

Truth and beauty

24 November 2012
Dear Life Alice Munro

Chatto, pp.336, £12.99, ISBN: 9780701187842

Almost 20 years ago, Alice Munro, the Canadian genius of the short story, was interviewed by the Paris Review. She recalled a time when she was having trouble with her… Read more

The serpent in the garden

11 August 2012
The River Rumer Godden

Virago Modern Classics, pp.224, 12.99, ISBN: 9781844088690

Loss of innocence happens to us all and is one of the great themes of literature. With The River, a novella first published in 1946 and now rightly republished by… Read more

What was it all for?

31 March 2012
No Time Like the Present Nadime Gordimer

Bloomsbury, pp.421, 18.99

What happens to a novelist who becomes the conscience of a nation? Nadine Gordimer, who is now 89 and whose writing career began in the 1940s, has represented the progressive… Read more


Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford by Leslie Brody

22 October 2011
Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford Leslie Brody

Counterpoint, pp.416, 14.99

Has the Mitford saga delighted us long enough? Some 17 non-fiction books about the family, mostly by its own members, have now been published; the first, in 1960, was Jessica… Read more


What did you do in the war, Mummy?

28 May 2011
Millions Like Us Virginia Nicholson

Viking, pp.508, 25

By tradition, ‘What did you do in the war?’ is a question children address to Daddy, not to Mummy. By tradition, ‘What did you do in the war?’ is a… Read more


A grief ago

26 March 2011
A Widow’s Story Joyce Carol Oates

Fourth Estate, pp.450, 20

The cautionary slogan ‘less is more’ has never been the American writer Joyce Carol Oates’ watchword. The cautionary slogan ‘less is more’ has never been the American writer Joyce Carol… Read more


Lessons for life

18 December 2010
A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers Michael Holroyd

Chatto, pp.258, 16.99

All modern biographies, one could say, are books of secrets; certainly all biographers during the past four decades have felt entitled to ferret around in their subject’s private as well… Read more


No love lost

31 July 2010
In Office Hours Lucy Kellaway

Penguin/ Fig Tree, pp.342, 12.99

I Think I Love You Allison Pearson

Chatto, pp.358, 12.99

There is chick lit, or witless, ill-written, juvenile popular fiction, and then there is superior chick lit, which is smart and amusing and written for grown ups. Both these novels… Read more


Her own best invention

17 March 2010
Inner Landscapes, Wilder Shores Anne Boston

John Murray, pp.364, 25

Lesley Blanch, who died in 2007 aged almost 103, did not want this book written. Having spent her whole life spinning a web of romantic tales around herself, the last… Read more


An institution to love and cherish

3 February 2010
Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage Elizabeth Gilbert

Bloomsbury, pp.285, 12.99

Couples: The Truth Kate Figes

Virago, pp.406, 14.99

Books about marriage, like the battered old institution itself, come in and out of fashion with writers, readers and politicians, but never quite die away. These two, from the latest… Read more

Jim’s especial foibles

30 September 2009
James Lees-Milne: The Life Michael Bloch

John Murray, pp.400, 25

As a young man in the 1970s Michael Bloch was the architectural historian and diarist James Lees- Milne’s last (if, we are assured, platonic) attachment, and later became his literary… Read more

Raising the last glass

8 July 2009
My Father’s Tears John Updike

Hamish Hamilton, pp.292, 18.99

My Father’s Tears, by John Updike Although an air of valediction inevitably hovers over this collection of short stories, the last of John Updike’s more than 60 books and published… Read more

The benefit of the doubt

13 May 2009
Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel

Fourth Estate, pp.653, 18.99

With her brilliant new book, Hilary Mantel has not just written a rich, absorbingly readable historical novel; she has made a significant shift in the way any of her readers… Read more

Deborah Mitford

The châtelaine and the wanderer

3 September 2008
In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor Charlotte Mosley (editor)

John Murray, pp.416, 25

Towards the end of this hugely enjoyable volume of letters, selected and edited by the skilful Charlotte Mosley from half a century of correspondence (1954-2007), Deborah Devonshire, by now in… Read more

Growing old gracefully

2 January 2008
Somewhere Towards the End Diana Athill

Granta, pp.pp. 183, £12.99

Ninety may be the new 70, but it is also seriously old, and no picnic. In her short, sharp, disconcerting new book, Diana Athill, the renowned editor turned writer who… Read more

A very honourable rebel

30 November 2006
Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford edited by Peter Y. Sussman

Weidenfeld, pp.744, 25

In the autumn of 1995 Jessica Mitford, the youngest of the sisters, known to one and all since childhood as Decca, sat down at her desk in Oakland, California to… Read more

Fighting free of Father

19 October 2006
Time At War Nicholas Mosley

Weidenfeld, pp.180, 14.99

When the second world war began, Nicholas Mosley, the distinguished novelist son of the fascist leader Sir Oswald, who thought that Britain should not fight Germany and whose second wife,… Read more

Rampant fascism near Henley

12 July 2006
Sherman’s Wife: A Wartime Childhood Among the English Aristocracy Julia Camoys Stonor

Desert Hearts, pp.347, 16.99

There can seldom have been a better first sentence in a book by a daughter about her mother: ‘“Heil Hitler!” shouted Mummy as she pushed Daddy down the stairs at… Read more

The dangerous edge of things

7 June 2006
Wild Mary Patrick Marnham

Chatto & Windus, pp.352, 18.99

Listing page content here If her name rings a bell at all, Mary Wesley, who died aged 90 in 2002, is remembered for two things: publishing the first of ten… Read more

Counting fewer and fewer blessings

3 December 2005
Late Youth: An Anthology Celebrating the Joys of Being Over Fifty edited by Susanna Johnston

Arcadia, pp.270, 12

The Long History of Old Age edited by Pat Thane

Thames & Hudson, pp.320, 25

One of these anthologies (Late Youth) is small and sprightly, with a pretty, jaunty cover depicting one cheery old person cavorting on a pony and a second catching a fish.… Read more

A bad judge, except of art

24 September 2005
Peggy Guggenheim: Mistress of Modernism Mary V. Dearborn

Virago, pp.338, 20

According to this new biography by an earnest, academically inclined American, Peggy Guggenheim deserves to be given a respected place in the history of modern art and not dismissed as… Read more