I totally agree with placing a high value on Fitzgerald. Her biographies of Charlotte Mew and her own curious intellectual uncles are fascinating too.
Penelope Fitzgerald ought to be to the novel of the next two hundred years what Jane Austen was to the last two hundred. Her irony is better, her observations sharper and she writes with the wisdom of age and misery not youth and precocity. Having initially squandered her gifts and then suffered hard luck she was able to choose more ambiguous moral stories then she might have done if she’d flourished earlier on.
Her moral vision was enhanced because she was an underdog. Her husband was an alcoholic who lost his career. They lived on a houseboat on the Thames which sank. She had to move into a small council estate flat and teach undergraduate entry to Oxbridge. She was, briefly, homeless. Her old-world snobbery and upper middle class upbringing were less than useless to her in these conditions.
Her unworldliness was extensive. Her children said she didn’t know what…
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