After reading English, Sociology and Philosophy at Nottingham and London Universities, Gordon Bowker worked as a lecturer as well as writing dramas and documentaries for radio and television. He is now a full-time author and journalist. He has written several books about Malcolm Lowry and biographies of George Orwell and Lawrence Durrell.
You Never Know is former WAAF officer and bestselling novelist Claire Lorrimer's autobiography, containing a graphic description of the six years she spent doing vitally secret work as a WAAF in the Fighter Command Filter Rooms in World War Two. It is the fascinating story of a life overflowing with adventure, humour, tragedy, love, joy and disasters.
Claire paints vivid images of her childhood when her mother, the famous author Denise Robins, entertained pre-and post-war literati at her weekend country house parties. Armed with an old typewriter, a vivid imagination and a passion for life, Claire started writing books during the war. She has had a remarkable career and You Never Know is the intriguing story of a long and extraordinary life.
Paula Fox has long been acclaimed as one of America's most brilliant fiction writers. Borrowed Finery, her first book in nearly a decade, is an astonishing memoir of her highly unusual beginnings.
Born in the twenties to nomadic, bohemian parents, Fox is left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage, then cared for by a poor yet cultivated minister in upstate New York. Her parents, however, soon resurface. Her handsome father is a hard-drinking screenwriter who is, for young Paula, "part ally, part betrayer." Her mother is given to icy bursts of temper that punctuate a deep indifference. How, Fox wonder, is this woman "enough of an organic being to have carried me in her belly"?
Never sharing more than a few moments with his daughter, Fox's father allows her to be shunted from New York City, where she lives with her passive Spanish grandmother, to Cuba, where she roams freely on a relative's sugar-cane plantation, to California, where she finds herself cast upon Hollywood's grubby margins. The thread binding these wanderings is the "borrowed finery" of the title-a few pieces of clothing, almost always lent by kind-hearted strangers, that offer Fox a rare glimpse of permanency.
Vivid and poetic, Borrowed Finery is an unforgettable book which will swell the legions of Paula Fox's devoted admiriers.
An immensely readable biography of the 19th century writer whose territory comprised nothing less than the entire span of Victorian society. Kathryn Hughes provides a truly nuanced view of Eliot, and is the first to grapple equally with the personal dramas that shaped her personality – particularly her rejection by her brother Isaac – and her social and intellectual context. Hughes shows how these elements together forged the themes of Eliot’s work, her insistence that ideological interests be subordinated to the bonds between human beings – a message that has keen resonance in our own time. With wit and sympathy Kathryn Hughes has written a wonderfully vivid account of Eliot’s life that is both moving, stimulating and at times laugh-out-loud funny.
Following her divorce from her first husband, the celebrated naturalist Peter Scott, Jane embarked on a string of high-profile affairs with Cecil Day-Lewis, Arthur Koestler and Laurie Lee, which turned her into a literary femme fatale. Yet the image of a sophisticated woman hid a romantic innocence which clouded her emotional judgement. She was nearing the end of a disastrous second marriage when she met Kingsley Amis, and for a few years they were a brilliant and glamorous couple - until that marriage too disintegrated. She settled in Suffolk where she wrote and entertained friends, but her turbulent love life was not over yet. In her early seventies Jane fell for a conman. His unmasking was the final disillusion, and inspired one of her most powerful novels, Falling.
Artemis Cooper interviewed Jane several times in Suffolk. She also talked extensively to her family, friends and contemporaries, and had access to all her papers. Her biography explores a woman trying to make sense of her life through her writing, as well as illuminating the literary world in which she lived.
James Joyce is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, his novels and stories foundational in the history of literary modernism. Yet Joyce's genius was by no means immediately recognized, nor was his success easily won. At twenty-two he chose a life of exile; he battled poverty and financial dependency for much of his adult life; his out-of-wedlock relationship with Nora Barnacle was scandalous for the time; and the attitudes he held towards the Irish and Ireland, England, sexuality, politics, Catholicism, popular culture—to name a few—were complex, contradictory, and controversial.
Gordon Bowker draws on material recently come to light and reconsiders the two signal works produced about Joyce's life—Herbert Gorman's authorized biography of 1939 and Richard Ellman's magisterial tome of 1959—and, most importantly by binding together more intimately than has ever before been attempted the life and work of this singular artist, Gordon Bowker here gives us a masterful, fresh, eminently readable contribution to our understanding, both of Joyce's personality and of the monumental opus he created.
Bowker goes further than his predecessors in exploring Joyce's inner depths—his ambivalent relationships to England, to his native Ireland, and to Judaism—uncovering revealing evidence. He draws convincing correspondences between the iconic fictional characters Joyce created and their real-life models and inspirations. And he paints a nuanced portrait of a man of enormous complexity, the clearest picture yet of an extraordinary writer who continues to influence and fascinate over a century after his birth. Widely acclaimed on publication in Britain last year, perhaps the highest compliment paid was by Chris Proctor, of London's Tribune: "Bowker's success is to lead you back to the texts, perhaps understanding them better for this rich account of the maddening insane genius who wrote them."
George Orwell was one of the greatest writers England produced in the last century. He left an enduring mark on our language and culture, with concepts such as 'Big Brother' and 'Room 101.' His reputation rests not only on his political shrewdness and his sharp satires (Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four) but also on his marvellously clear style and superb essays, which rank with the best ever written.
Gordon Bowker's new biography includes fascinating new material which brings Orwell'slife into unfamiliar focus. He writes revealingly about Orwell's family background; the lasting influence of Eton on his work and character; his superstitious streak and youthful flirtation with black magic; and his chaotic and reckless sex life, which included at least one homoerotic relationship. It highlights the strange circumstances of his first marriage and provides remarkable new evidence of his experiences in Spain and their nightmarish consequences. It also offers a fresh look at his peculiar deathbed marriage to a woman fifteen years his junior. All this has enabled Bowker to give Orwell's life a brilliantly fresh and distinctive interpretation.