Friday, 28 October 2016

I got this most readable biography from the library after hearing Artemis Cooper speak at Kew Literary Festival a few weeks ago. I read it with a kind of fascinated horror, because you want to pick EJH up and shake her - I think she must have been a most difficult woman, although often a generous and loyal friend (unless she had her eye on your husband) - but, oh, the loneliness and neediness that seeps out of this book. And the awful sadness and waste of love, when you read Kingsley Amis's love letters and then a few years later he can't bear the sight of her. But how you want to yell at her, Stop being such a doormat, stop cooking all those fussy dinners, tell Kingsley it's cheese on toast and he can get it himself and you're not his chauffeur. Your toes curl with embarrassment for her when she goes shopping for a trousseau of silky lingerie - she's 73 - before her first meeting with the admirer who turns out to be a violent serial-conman. (He has targeted her after picking up on her loneliness after she appeared on Desert Island Discs.) At least she got a novel out of it.
Now, of course, I want to go back and read The Cazalets again and the earlier novels. I found the film adaptation of Getting It Right on YouTube - Helena Bonham Carter, Jane Horrocks, John Gielgud, Lynn Redgrave, and it's absolutely dire! Look out for a one-line performance from EJH herself, tippling on a party terrace with (I think) Alma from Coronation Street. Or don't. It's not worth an hour of your life.

11 comments:

lyn said...

I read this a few weeks a go. You've expressed my feelings about the book & about EJH exactly. She seemed to keep saying that she was such a wimp with men because of her upbringing & because that's just the way it was back then but I can't really believe that an intelligent woman like EJH couldn't get a grip. The book was readable but I couldn't summon up much enthusiasm about EJH herself although I love the Cazalets & I think Falling is her best book.

mary said...

Lyn, I've just thought who she reminds me of ... Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Sue said...

Oh, Mary, I just finished this book last week and I loved it. Artemis Cooper is such a good writer, very clever at revealing lots of not terribly positive aspects of EJH's character without being exasperated. I think it might have taken quite an effort to remain positive about her over so many decades - a bottomless pit of neediness or however someone else put it. I have The Long View ready to read on one of my bedside towers.

mary said...

I find myself flagging sometimes with biographies, Sue - but this really kept me turning the pages. The Long View is definitely the one to read next.

galant said...

This is on my list of books to get ... and I have only this afternoon been thinking of the Cazalets ... I loved the first four and then the 5th appeared just before E J Howard died, it was OK, but the first four are the ones which are great 20th century novels.
Margaret P

mary said...

The fifth was a bit disappointing after such a long wait, but at least she rounded it off. I hadn't realised quite how autobiographical they were.

Pam said...

I read her autobiography a while ago and also wanted to shake her. I remember her on tv in the ?? sixties and she seemed so cool and serious and in control, but she came across in the autobiog as far from that. I also read all the Cazalet books on holiday the year before last and thought that they were piffle (which surprised me). But I want to read the biog, having heard bits of it on Radio 4.

Toffeeapple said...

I heard the Radio 4 adaptation of the biography and felt that it differed very little from EJH's memoir 'Slipstream' so shall not bother with the Cooper biography.

mary said...

I haven't read Slipstream, Toffeeapple - but I'm sure it must cover much of the same ground.
Pam, I got terribly irritated with her - especially when, long into middle-age, she was blaming her childhood. For all her intelligence, she comes across as a very silly woman.

Cosy Books said...

Started reading The Long View this morning, Mary, and by page 25 I wanted to buy everything she's written. EJH is lethal when it comes to the powers of observation and character development. Cooper's biography is going on my Christmas list...if I don't buy it sooner.

mary said...

`it'll be your first Heywood Hill book when you win that prize, Darlene!