Monica Jones was Philip Larkin’s partner for more than four decades.
She was cruelly immortalized as Margaret Peel in Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim and widely vilified for destroying Larkin’s diaries and works in progress after his death. But she was also an inspiring teacher and a brilliant academic in her own right. Through his careful reading of Monica’s never-before-seen letters, and his own recollections, John Sutherland reveals a new side to Larkin’s story and allows Monica finally to step out from behind the poet’s shadow.
‘One of the most brilliant biographies I have read – an extraordinary achievement – brings Monica to life as she deserves, and not only for what she did for Larkin and his work, but also her teaching skills. It makes me wish I could have heard her lecture.’ Claire Tomalin
‘Who would have thought that the life of Monica Jones, an unpublished and under-promoted lecturer in the English department at University College, Leicester, would prove to be such a page-turner? We all knew that she was Philip Larkin’s long-term lover, and we thought we knew that she was reactionary, racist, homophobic, awkward, hysterical and dowdy. How wrong we were, how wrong. John Sutherland has set up a counter-narrative that keeps us guessing, as he himself has been kept guessing by this strange woman whom in some ways he knew so well, and in other ways, as he speculates, not at all. This memoir is his tribute to Miss Jones, and he shows her to us in her powerful prime. It is a story as full of surprises as many a novel, and a story that only he could tell.’ Margaret Drabble, New Statesman