The chance to collect the earliest four available hand-numbered Slightly Foxed Editions, limited to 2,000 copies of each title.
These delightfully funny and affectionate portraits of the two most influential male figures in the author’s life conjure up two strongly defined characters and the times in which they lived. The two could hardly have been more different. Denis’s maternal grandfather, though surviving sturdily into the reign of George V, was to his grandson a character from the ‘warm, gas-lit, stable-smelling past’ of the Victorian age and symbolized everything that was convivial and straightforward and reliable. His father Stephanos Constanduros, however, was flamboyant, melodramatic and full of grand ideas for solving his perpetual financial problems at a stroke – a tendency which ultimately led to disaster.
It is a Saturday afternoon in the 1950s, and Harold Carlton (lightly disguised as Howard Conway) is being given a characteristic welcome by his grandmother at the door of her mansion flat just off London’s Edgware Road. Like everything about Grandma – her food, her décor, her make-up, her fears, her joys, her sorrows – it’s excessive, overwhelming. She is the monstrous yet entirely believable figure who dominates this darkly comic story of a Jewish family’s rise and fall.
Grandma, the arch manipulator and expert in emotional blackmail, is determined to foil her youngest son’s plans to marry a shiksa – a non-Jewish girl – by shipping him off to join his brother in New York. When the two brothers return full of New World entrepreneurial spirit it all rebounds, of course, in an awful yet irresistibly hilarious way. Though light-heartedly written, Marrying Out is a brilliantly observed study of family dynamics, and of a certain kind of Jewish life in 1950s North London.
Well-known for his frank biographies of such controversial figures as Augustus John and Lytton Strachey, Holroyd teases out the story of his own distinctly problematic family in this delightful and original book. His volatile father, always busy with his own enterprises, and his glamorous Swedish mother with her succession of exotic husbands, had only walkon parts in his life. It was only after both his parents had died that he was overcome by a desire to find the ‘connecting story’ which his fragmented childhood had so lacked. The result is a very personal detective story, subtle, funny and poignant.
The writer and naturalist Gavin Maxwell is best known for Ring of Bright Water, his moving account of raising otters on the remote west coast of Scotland. In his childhood memoir The House of Elrig he describes, with the same lyrical power that made that earlier book a classic, how it all began. In loving detail he evokes the wild moors around his Scottish home and the creatures that inhabited them. As was then the custom, he was ripped away from this paradise to go to a series of brutalizing schools. But always in his imagination he was at Elrig. It was his refuge and his escape.
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