We’ve opened our gifts, and we’re feeling jolly. Well, of course we are. We picked out our own books, so everything is perfect. I now have a copy of Lucy Ellmann’s controversial novel, Ducks, Newburyport, which won the Goldsmiths Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. And I have begun Eleanor Fitzsimons’s well-reviewed new biography, The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit, which is very good indeed.
I’m sure you have heard of Ellmann’s novel, which is 1,000 pages long, published by a small press, and written in one sentence from the point-of-view of an American housewife. The critics love it. I hope I will.
You may not be familiar with E. Nesbit (1858-1924), who was best-known for her children’s fantasy novels. When I was a child she was my favorite writer, so my sensible mother gave me her books for Christmas and birthdays. I read these books over and over from the ages of 10-12. The Enchanted Castle was my favorite.
Although I didn’t know it then, Nesbit also wrote for adults. You can very cheaply buy an e-book edition of her Complete Works, which contains all her adult books as well as the children’s books. Nesbit is undergoing a revival: Penelope Lively selected Nesbit’s delightful adult novel The Lark for the Penguin Women Writers’ series in 2018. Furrowed Middlebrow has also published an American edition of The Lark. And for those of you who love trivia, Nesbit and her circle were thinly-veiled characters in A. S. Byatt’s Booker-shortlisted novel, The Children’s Book.
I am loving Fitzsimon’s biography, because Nesbit was absolutely fascinating and very “progressive.” She was a Fabian socialist who hung out with H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and other famous writers; she was willing to write anything, from newspaper articles to books, to support her unemployable husband, Hubert Bland, along with their five children, Hubert’s mistress, and his two children with her.
Well, enough about my good books! I love the bio, and will start the Ellmann soon.
Have a Contented Christmas!
10 thoughts on “Gifts under the Tree: Books, of Course!”
Would you believe that none of my local libraries have The Lark? I’m going to have to buy it. The bio looks good.
Have a peaceful day tomorrow.
If your library doesn’t have it, mine doesn’t either! The e-book is very cheap, but I don’t remember if you have an e-reader or not. This biography is fascinating (and not all are)!
I do but I love those hardcopies.
Yes, they’re much nicer than e-books.
Nesbit was a formative writer for me as well and I think a very interesting person. I read another biography of her a long time ago but I’m sure she’s due for another. I’m glad you are enjoying your bookish gifts!
I don’t hear much about Nesbit these days, so am thrilled by Fitzsimons’s new biography. The first in 30 years, she says. That said, I did read Noel Streatfeild’s biography of Nesbit at a university library eons ago. Nesbit fan power!
I was very fond of many of Nesbit’s children’s books as a kid. I thought The Woodbegoods was particularly funny and I enjoyed re- reading it up until a few years ago. I believe there’s an alternate history series by Michael Moorcock in which a character that is based on Oswald Bastable and carries his name is the protagonist. I’m glad you posted about her biography – I didn’t think I’d find contemporary writing about a writer like Nesbit as some people may focus on aspects of her writing that make her seem out of touch with today.
A fellow Nesbit fan, hurrah! The Bastables also briefly appear in one of Nesbit’s adult novels, The Red House. The Nesbit biography is fascinating, because she was rather like a 1960s rebel. It just goes to shore that history repeats itself! How she could stand to live with her husband’s mistress i’ll never know.
On Wed, Jan 1, 2020 at 2:55 AM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:
I enjoyed The Lark so much!
I loved it.