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!