The chance to collect the earliest four available hand-numbered Slightly Foxed Editions, limited to 2,000 copies of each title.
My Grandfather & Father, Dear Father (No. 20)
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.
Marrying Out (No. 27)
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.
My Family & Other Animals (No. 28)
In 1935, the Durrell family sold their house and ‘like a flock of migrating swallows’ fled from the depressing grey damp of an English summer to the Mediterranean warmth and colour of Corfu, where they would spend the next five years.
Having arrived on the island they were quickly taken under the wing of the huge and quaintly English-speaking operator Spiro Hakiaopulos (‘Don’ts you worrys yourselfs about anythings, Mrs Durrells, leaves everythings to me’). Soon he had them settled in a strawberry-pink villa with a flower-filled garden which was, as Gerry immediately discovered, home to every imaginable kind of insect. For Gerry, this was where Paradise began. Durrell’s experiences on Corfu gave him an education of a different kind, which helped turn him into the great conservationist he became. My Family and Other Animals is his testament to that time, full of infectious wonder at the beauty and fragility of the natural world and the infinite variety of the humans who inhabit it. It’s a perfect family book for reading aloud, a funny, magical evocation of a boyish Paradise which has been a favourite with readers of all ages since it was first published nearly sixty years ago.
Basil Street Blues (No. 29)
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.
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