Elizabeth Jane Howard
A Dangerous Innocence
By Artemis Cooper
The authorised biography of Elizabeth Jane Howard from the award-winning author of Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923-2014) wrote brilliant novels about what love can do to people, but in her own life the lasting relationship she sought so ardently always eluded her. She grew up yearning to be an actress; but when that ambition was thwarted by marriage and the war, she turned to fiction. Her first novel, The Beautiful Visit, won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize - she went on to write fourteen more, of which the best-loved were the five volumes of The Cazalet Chronicle.
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.
Artemis Cooper is the author of a number of books including Cairo in the War, 1939-1945, Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David and, most recently, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure. With her husband, Antony Beevor, she wrote Paris After the Liberation, 1945-1949. She has edited two collections of letters as well as Words of Mercury, an anthology of the work of Patrick Leigh Fermor; and, with Colin Thubron, she edited The Broken Road, the final volume of Leigh Fermor's European trilogy.
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- Publication date:
22 Sep 2016
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Hugely absorbing — Guardian
A careful and accurate portrait — Daily Telegraph
Cooper has assiduously gathered material from everyone involved, and the details and perspectives are tantalizingly fresh — The Times
Looks set to be the literary biography of the autumn — Good Housekeeping
In this fascinating biography, Artemis Cooper paints a picture of a complex and tricky woman — Sunday Express
A careful portrait of a fascinating woman — Sunday Telegraph
Compelling — Sunday Times
An unexpected treasure . . . It is as compelling and unified as a novel, while recounting a full, messy, complex human story . . . Cooper is respectful but never sycophantic, clear-eyed but never mocking. Familiar stories are retold but also reconsidered, and set in context. And the book pays the literary biography's ultimate compliment - it will send even those most familiar with the novels back to their bookshelves to revisit them — Financial Times
Elegant, sympathetic but clear-sighted — Mail on Sunday
I inhaled every blissful word. A sad, revelatory, brilliantly written account of one remarkable woman's life in writing, cooking, and having sex. An unexpected triumph — Rachel Johnson, Daily Mail
Artemis Cooper's biography of Howard asserts the importance of Howard the writer, but also paints a painful portrait of a woman whose emotional life was often determined by the approval and attention of men — Guardian Review
Cooper's biography is a careful portrait of a woman bursting with every talent except the capacity to inspire enduring love — Daily Telegraph