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Francis King rss

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Morality tales

18 June 2011
A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: The Collected Stories Margaret Drabble

Penguin Classics, pp.223, 20

Francis King celebrates Margaret Drabble’s distinguished career and vividly recalls their first meeting I first met a youthful Margaret Drabble when, already myself an established author, I was working at… Read more

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A constant delight

12 March 2011

With knobbly hands, shoulders bowed under the burden of arthritis, the little old woman tested the hasp of the front door and then turned to me, the last remaining guest… Read more

Miracles of compression

1 January 2011
Klaus and Other Stories Allan Massie

Vagabond Voices, pp.187, 10.00

In the course of a lifetime of fiction reviewing, I have come to the conclusion that, though my colleagues are prepared doggedly to persevere with the reading of a novel… Read more

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The odd couple

13 November 2010
Lennox & Freda Tony Scotland

Michael Russell, pp.575, 28

Some years ago now I bought from the artist Robert Buhler a pastel portrait of the composer Lennox Berkeley (reproduced above). Since I knew neither of the two men well… Read more

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The witch in the machine

18 September 2010
The Accident Ismail Kadare

Canongate, pp.263, 16.99

If one asks Albanians who is their greatest living writer, the immediate answer is Ismail Kadare, winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in 2005. But the tone of… Read more

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Why, oh why?

14 August 2010
Pictures of Lily Matthew Yorke

Corsair, pp.311, 7.99

In my many years as a judge for the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography, I have been constantly surprised by the high proportion of books that deal with the… Read more

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Not as sweet as he seemed

16 June 2010
E. M. Forster: A New Life Wendy Moffat

Bloomsbury, pp.404, 25

There are already three biographies of E. M. Forster: P. N. Furbank’s two- volume, authorised heavyweight; Nicola Beauman’s less compendious, more engaging middleweight; and my own bantamweight, little more than… Read more

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Short and sweet

19 May 2010
A Garden of Erses Jeff Chaucer

Orchises Press, P.O. Box 320533, Alexandria, Virginia, 22320-4533, USA, pp.48, 12.95

This little book of limericks, some as hard and glittering as shards of mica but a few surprisingly pallid and limp, at once presents a puzzle: the real name of… Read more

A great novelist

14 December 2009
Pastors and Masters Ivy Compton-Burnett

Hesperus, pp.100, 8.99

In a remarkable way the trajectory of Ivy Compton-Burnett’s reputation after her death in 1967 parallels that of George Meredith’s in 1909. In a remarkable way the trajectory of Ivy… Read more

Home thoughts from abroad

8 July 2009
Paradise of Exiles Katie Campbell

Frances Lincoln, pp.176, 35

The subtitle, ‘The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence’, of this engaging and elegantly produced book, is misleading. The reclusive and narcissistic chatelaine of the Villa Gamberai in the days of its… Read more

Quite contrary

3 June 2009
The Blue Hour: A Portrait of Jean Rhys by Lilian Pizzichini

Bloomsbury, £18.99, pp. 322, ISBN 9780747597407✆ £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Eleven years after Jean Rhys’s death in 1979, Carole Angier published a monumental biography, a model of its kind, with 70 pages of notes and seven of bibliography. Lilian Pizzichini’s… Read more

A delicate talent

15 April 2009
The Other Elizabeth Taylor Nicola Beauman

Persephone, pp.444, 15

When, 15 years ago, Nicola Beauman embarked on this life of ‘the other Elizabeth Taylor’, the novelist and not the film star, she had been deprived of documents that would… Read more

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Opposites attracted

1 April 2009
Before We Met Marcelle and Anthony Quinton

Half Moon Press, pp.164, 9

Privately printed books are now all too often castigated as ‘vanity publishing.’ But at a time when publishers pay vast advances for the ghosted memoirs of people ‘celebrated’ for kicking… Read more

Culture-clash on the campus

17 September 2008
Chicago Alaa al-Aswani

Fourth Estate, pp.332, 14.99

Chicago, by Alaa al-Aswani Because I spend part of each winter in Egypt, friends from time to time ask me to recommend, not a guide, but a book that will… Read more

More nattering please

10 September 2008
The Other Garden and Collected Stories Francis Wyndham

Picador, pp.403, 7.99

There are writers so prolific that one wants to shout, ‘Oh, do give it a rest!’ There are others so costive that one wants to shout, ‘Oh, do get a… Read more

A Soho stalwart

16 July 2008
Selected Letters by Julian Maclaren-Ross, edited by Paul Willetts

Black Spring Press, £9.95, pp. 351 ISBN 9780948238383✆ £7.85 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Like Angus Wilson, Julian Maclaren-Ross immediately grabbed the attention of Forties reviewers and readers with a series of short stories at once ruthlessly observant and irresistibly entertaining. However, unlike Wilson,… Read more

Tangerine dreams

25 June 2008

In 1926, Tessa Codrington’s maternal grandfather, Jack Sinclair, once British Resident in Zanzibar, decided to buy for his wife a house on the ‘New Mountain’ in Tangier. One of Muriel… Read more

Deep, dark truths revealed

24 May 2007
Winterton Blue Trezza Azzopardi

Picador, pp.268, 12.99

A few nights ago I was at a dinner party at which all those present knew each other far better than I knew them. For what seemed an interminable time… Read more

Thriving in adversity

8 March 2007
Growing Up in a War Bryan Magee

Pimlico, pp.390, 17.99

This book takes up the story, told so memorably in his Clouds of Glory, of Bryan Magee’s early years in working-class Hoxton. In the first chapter, the now nine-year-old Magee,… Read more

The subtle art of suggestion

6 December 2006
Creatures of the Earth John McGahern

Faber, pp.408, 16.99

Prematurely, John McGahern published his Collected Stories 14 years before his death early this year. To prepare this Selected Stories he obsessively polished and ruthlessly cut stories that, even as… Read more

Dirty tricks down Mexico way

11 February 2006
The Eagle’s Throne Carlos Fuentes

Bloomsbury, pp.310, 15.99

Set in 2020, this has been described as a work of ‘futuristic’ fiction. Most such fiction — Forster’s The Machine Stops, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, L. P. Hartley’s Facial Justice —… Read more

A brilliant autopsy on a dead regime

14 January 2006
The Successor Ismail Kadare

Canongate, pp.207, 9.99

Although writers in languages of lesser currency suffer a cruel disadvantage when striving to establish themselves on the international scene, the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare has succeeded in leaping that… Read more

All passion still not spent

26 November 2005
When I Grow Up Bernice Rubens

Little, Brown, pp.256, 17.99

From her earliest years, one attribute dominated Bernice Rubens’s life: passion. It fuelled her impressive books, her personal relationships and her reactions to the world around her. It expressed her… Read more

A stranger to the truth

22 October 2005
The Real Life of Anthony Burgess Andrew Biswell

Picador, pp.434, 20

Anthony Burgess was someone whose accomplishment as a fibber far surpassed even that of such formidable rivals as Laurens van der Post, Lilian Hellman and Patrick O’Brian. What made fibbing… Read more

Mombasa and Zanzibar

14 May 2005
Desertion Abdulrazak Gurnah

Bloomsbury, pp.262, 16.99

The bitterness of the immigrant experience, the tumultuous coming of independence to a former British colony, forbidden love and miscegenation within a close-knit Muslim community: dominant themes of Abdul-razak Gurnah’s… Read more