Charlotte Mew: And Her Friends

Charlotte Mew: And Her Friends

Paperback

By (author) Penelope Fitzgerald, Introduction by Michele Roberts

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  • Publisher: Flamingo
  • Format: Paperback | 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 197mm x 19mm | 240g
  • Publication date: 4 November 2002
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0007142749
  • ISBN 13: 9780007142743
  • Sales rank: 273,798

Product description

Penelope Fitzgerald's fascinating portrait of the tragic poet and her life at the heart of the Bloomsbury set. Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) cut one of the most distinctive figures of the twentieth century - beloved of Siegfried Sassoon and Walter de la Mare (for whom she was 'a very rare being'), unafraid of Virginia Woolf, and considered by Hardy to be 'far and away the best living woman poet'. Part of a new wave of fashionable female dandies who lived passionate, precarious existences in Bloomsbury, she was an enchanting and spirited personality. But behind the brave face was a life riddled with grief: left to care for her disturbed mother, two siblings with undiagnosed Schizophrenia and Charlotte herself burdened by depression and closeted lesbianism; she killed herself by drinking household disinfectant. In this unexpectedly gripping portrait of a life of passion unfulfilled, Penelope Fitzgerald brings all her novelist's skills into play in telling a story that is at once tragic, beautiful and deeply human.

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Author information

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. Three of her novels, The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the Prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award. She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.

Review quote

'A perceptive, witty biography. A marvel and a curiosity ... reads like a Thomas Hardy novel' The Times 'Everyone says you can't write the biography of a genius. Penelope Fitzgerald has ... and she has managed to present Charlotte Mew with such subtlety that you feel you've read her work, even if you haven't' The Times 'Absorbing ... full of insight and sympathy and mellow humour' Observer 'Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.' David Nicholls 'The heartbreaking story, beautifully told, of a hitherto underestimated poet. Tantalizing but touching, an entire life's emotional history in a short space.' Victoria Glendinning, Sunday Times 'A subtle, succinct, generous biography.' Hilary Spurling, Evening Standard

Editorial reviews

Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) was a talented and successful poet, but one whose life was overshadowed by personal misery. Parental attitudes and a dominating nurse instilled in her feelings of guilt and alienation from a young age and her high spirits and love of reading and writing were continually disparaged. In adult life Charlotte believed that all passion was destructive and she repressed that joyful part of her personality with only occasional glimpses, as when she charmed Walter de le Mare. Two of her siblings became insane and were put into an asylum, so Charlotte and her sister determined to remain single and together they cared for their very difficult widowed mother. It was a lonely life, made harder by Charlotte's pride - which forbade her to accept help and literary patronage - and her unrequited passions for strong talented women. Eventually, in her 50s, she achieved financial security, but she was consumed by guilt after the death of her sister Anne. To the horror of her friends and admirers she committed suicide. Penelope Fitzgerald is famous mostly for her novels, but this biography, first published in 1984, is just as accomplished. Her portrait of Charlotte, her social circle - friends included Alice Munro - and her family is a vivid one, and she provides a fascinating insight into an era of great advances in art and technology. The reissue of this excellent book should ensure a renewed and much-deserved interest in Charlotte's work. (Kirkus UK)