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- Publisher: FOURTH ESTATE LTD
- Format: Paperback | 208 pages
- Dimensions: 126mm x 192mm x 14mm | 159g
- Publication date: 30 November 1988
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0006542549
- ISBN 13: 9780006542544
- Illustrations note: port.
- Sales rank: 85,185
From the Booker Prizewinning author of 'Offshore' and 'The Blue Flower'; a funny, touching, authentic story of life at Broadcasting House during the Blitz. The human voices of Penelope Fitzgerald's novel are those of the BBC in the first years of the World War II, the time when the Concert Hall was turned into a dormitory for both sexes, the whole building became a target for enemy bombers, and in the BBC - as elsewhere - some had to fail and some had to die, but where the Nine O'Clock News was always delivered, in impeccable accents, to the waiting nation.
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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.
'Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality - the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.' Sebastian Faulks 'Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.' David Nicholls 'Of all the novelists of the last quarter-century, she has the most unarguable claim on greatness. [It has been] a career we, as readers, can only count ourselves lucky to have lived through.' Philip Hensher, Spectator 'One of the pleasures of reading Penelope Fitzgerald is the unpredictability of her intelligence, which never loses its quality, but springs constant surprises, and if you make the mistake of reading her fast because she is so readable, you will miss some of the best jokes. This is a very funny novel.' The Times 'Comic, and sometimes extraordinarily sad.' A.S. Byatt, TLS
Admirers of The Blue Flower and The Bookshop (both 1997) will be happy for this wonderful touch of the Fitzgerald hand, published in 1980 in England but here only now. The place is London, the time 1940, the main concern that the Germans may invade at any moment. Under such circumstances, there's no choice for those working at the BBC (and no thought of one) other than to carry on the weekly, daily, and hourly work of the big bureaucracy in its vital role of keeping the British people informed, prepared, and calmed. Broadcast House, where these efforts take place, has the look of a seven-story ocean liner, and those inside are much like its passengers and crew, especially when air bombardments begin and overnight encampments are set up - in, for example, the broadcasting concert hall. Emerging gradually as the story's chief figure is Jeffrey Haggard, DPP (Director of Programme Planning), a suave, worldly, weary, divorced, Graham Greene-like character unsure of his own future who keeps everything going, works far too hard - and is turned to incessantly by others for help, care, and advice. Dominant among the latter is Sam Brooks, RPD (Recorded Programme Director), who works even harder than Haggard, wants decent mobile recording equipment to record the invasion if it comes about - and whose department is nicknamed "the Seraglio" for his habit of hiring numerous young women as assistants. Among such are the half-French Lise, who disappears near story's beginning (to reappear later under changed, charged, and revealing circumstances), and the positively captivating creation, Annie Asra, a young thing down from Birmingham who's the very quintessence of pluck and stability - and who changes all. Ingeniously delivered tragicomedy from one of the very finest of writers. The feel of history, England under the blitz, civilization at the brink of doom - all with perfect stories, too, of private hearts. A hundred-plus pages from Fitzgerald can hold more than five times that from many another. (Kirkus Reviews)