Wednesday 10 December 2008

Penelope Fitzgerald

Recently, belatedly, I've been discovering the late novels of Penelope Fitzgerald - and dang they're good, as many of you will already know. Having read the last, The Blue Flower - an astonishing, haunting piece of work, quite unlike any other novel I've read - I moved on to the penultimate, The Gate Of Angels, which I finished last night. Again it seems sui generis - and again it is wonderfully short, with not a word wasted, and seems to live entirely in its time and place (in this case, Cambridge in 1912). It is also managed with wonderful technical aplomb, all the various strands of the story coming together in a final section that is vivid, exciting, moving and very very funny, and which finally accelerates to a quite breathtaking finish. What a read! I noticed on the cover that The Gate Of Angels was nominated for the Booker in 1990. So what won? A.S. Byatt's Possession. Hmm... Well of course it won - so much more Bookerabile (though Fitzgerald did win once, with Offshore) - but, as between Possession and The Gate Of Angels, I know which I'd sooner read, and reread...


  1. For crying out loud, Nige, I've already got a pile of unread books by the bed and many more wedged into any available space on my bookshelves. I simply cannot keep up with all these recommendations, curse you all.

  2. You and poor Dick too, Brit - and me of course. Books, books, books... Must have another clear-out in the new year...

  3. Penelope Fitzgerald is very good indeed - i've enjoyed two 2 books of hers i've read (The Blue Flower and At Freddie's), whereas i haven't enjoyed either of Byatt's books. Byatt i think advertises herself as a Great Novelist in the novel - it's as if it comes with a tag saying Great Novel, and you can never get away from it. Fitzgerald is much subtler, and, for my money, much better.