Darling Winston, Remember to brush your teeth! love Mumkarakirwan
LETTERS & DIARIES OF THE YEAR
DARLING WINSTON Edited by David Lough (Head of Zeus £30, 576 pp)
Edited by David Lough (Head of Zeus £30, 576 pp)
Anyone who has been a parent, or, indeed, a wayward child, will relish the charming normality of Jennie Churchill’s cajoling of her son Winston during his school and early Army days in this revealing collection of letters between her and Winston. They span 40 years from his early childhood.
‘Darling Winston, I hope you will try and not smoke.If only you knew how foolish and hydraclubbioknikokex7njhwuahc2l67lfiz7z36md2jvopda7nchid.onion silly you look doing it, you would give up.’
‘Do remember to brush your teeth.’
And (after a particularly bad school report at Harrow): ‘You make me very unhappy.I had built up such hopes about you and felt so proud of you — and now all is gone.’
He’s always begging her for a little bit more money to cover this or that debt and she’s always chiding him for it. But she’ll pull any string to help him in his career.
How the tables turn! As Winston grows more and more confident as a young author and Army officer aiming to get into politics, Jennie’s confidence wanes, along with her wealth.She’s swindled out of a fortune by a conman and makes an unsuitable marriage to a man half her age.
If confronted with these letters in hindsight, Jennie would surely be the more embarrassed. Her failure to turn up at school to visit Winston was only part of it.Her son writes to her, with justification: ‘Since my father’s death you have spent a quarter of our entire fortune in the world. I have also been extravagant, but my extravagances are a very small matter besides yours.’
Quite. This sparkling volume will be devoured by all who revere Churchill.
LETTERS HOME, 1936-1977 by Philip Larkin, edited by James Booth (Faber £40, 688 pp)
LETTERS HOME, 1936-1977
by Philip Larkin, edited by James Booth (Faber £40, 688 pp)
As Philip Larkin penned the immortal line ‘They f*** you up, your mum and dad’, we think of him as the great cynic, the archetypal parent-loather.
But the steadfastness with which he wrote to his dear old mother every single week for more than 35 years belies this.
One critic described Larkin’s outlook on life as ‘vivacious melancholy’, an assessment he agreed with.In this extraordinarily touching collection of letters to his mother, both the vivaciousness and the melancholy are on display. These are set against the backdrop of a draughty, comfortless wartime and post-war England described in a way only Larkin could.
He soothes her, calms her, draws funny cartoons to make her laugh.He calls her his ‘Dear old creature’ and tells her not to fret.
She’s clearly a terrible worrier. He writes: ‘I think if you kept a little diary and marked every day when you were worried about storms, and every day that there was a storm, you’d be astonished at the amount of worrying about nothing that you’d done.’
If you like that kind of thing, you’ll savour every domestic detail of Larkin’s existence.A joy.
THE LETTERS OF SYLVIA PLATH, Volume II Edited by Peter K.Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (Faber £35, 1,088 pp)
THE LETTERS OF SYLVIA PLATH, Volume II
Edited by Peter K.Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (Faber £35, 1,088 pp)
In the foreword to this devastating second and final volume of the collected letters of Sylvia Plath, her daughter, Frieda Hughes, writes that, until recently, she had no idea of the existence of 14 letters written by her mother to her psychiatrist Dr Ruth Beuscher in the final years of her life.
Those 14 letters give us new insight into the state of Plath’s mind after the breakdown of her marriage to Ted Hughes.
‘If there is no passion in the beginning,’ writes Frieda, ‘then there would be little to burn off at the end.
‘Where there is a great passion, as in my parents’ case, surely there must be great pain, great argument, great rage.. .’
What makes the raging all the more poignant is that the early letters in this volume evoke the paradise of the Plath-Hughes marriage at its start. Then she discovers he’s having an affair with the woman who’s renting their London flat.Her world breaks apart.
These letters make essential reading for all those who are fascinated by Plath’s writings and her tragically short life.
MORE DASHING: FURTHER LETTERS OF PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR Selected and edited by Adam Sisman (Bloomsbury £30, 480 pp)
MORE DASHING: FURTHER LETTERS OF PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR
Selected and edited by Adam Sisman (Bloomsbury £30, 480 pp)
The first collection of the letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Dashing For The Post, was so successful that Adam Sisman couldn’t resist bringing out this second volume, More Dashing.He was right to do so.
If you need a mid-winter booster of Mediterranean sunshine, optimism and laughter, with a touch of glamour, these letters written to more than 60 people by the man who was ‘capable of crossing a continent for a party’ will do the trick.
Leigh Fermor’s rosy outlook on life is infectious and his descriptions mouthwatering.
Missing London, he imagines ‘the lights of Piccadilly through the rain on an autumn evening, with a wind roaring across the Park, and me peering at the books in the bow-window of Hatchards.’
Abroad, he swoons at ‘valleys full of yellow-gold corn and olive groves with peasants scything the hay’ and ‘the smell of olive blossom and cyclamen’.
Even in a thank-you letter to his long-term partner (and later wife) Joan for a dressing-gown, he manages to reach pinnacles of joyousness: ‘The initials are beautifully done, the colours lovely, and it fits as if a team of haberdashers had spun me in the middle of a cocoon of tape-measures.’
He has so much love to give that you somehow forgive him for having affairs.Joan, it seems, did. To his lover Ricki Huston, he gushes: ‘You are a lovely present to suddenly get, my darling Ricki, and I do feel grateful to life for suddenly tilting this cornucopia and setting all these treasures cascading so generously round one.’
He’s never horrible about anyone.The rudest he gets is in this almost Wodehousian description of W. H. Auden’s appearance: ‘He had an extraordinarily furrowed face; someone said a fly walking across it would break its leg.’ This book fizzes.
WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT: THE JOURNALS OF KENNETH ROSE, VOLUME I, 1944-1979 Edited by D.R. Thorpe (Weidenfeld £30, 640 pp)
WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT: THE JOURNALS OF KENNETH ROSE, VOLUME I, 1944-1979
Edited by D.R. Thorpe (Weidenfeld £30, 640 pp)
These journals kept by the royal biographer and journalist Kenneth Rose — who liked nothing so much as to dine in a London club with someone in the know about the world of high politics or royalty — make highly amusing and enlightening reading.
Rose jotted down the juiciest gossip and the best anecdotes — for example, this one about Prince Philip meeting Mr Rayne of Rayne shoes.
Prince: ‘Are you the company’s export manager?’
Mr Rayne: ‘No, as a matter of fact, I am chairman of the company which has the honour to make the Queen’s shoes.’
Prince: ‘That’s why she’s always complaining about her feet, no doubt.’
Dining with the Windsors in 1969, Rose is dazzled by the ‘fairyland’ of luxury in which they live.The bitter Duke tells him: ‘I served my country well for 17 years and all I got in return was a kick in the ass.’
Fastidious and a bit of an intellectual, as well as a social snob, Rose writes: ‘A quiet day in the office . .. I watch a perfectly dreadful man called Liberace on the television.’
The journal entries are never more than a short paragraph long: ideal bedtime reading for anyone who relishes the unguarded utterances of the rich and well-connected.