Gwen Raverat, Period Piece
Gwen Raverat is best-known for her glorious wood engravings, but in her childhood memoir Period Piece she created a perfect small masterpiece of another kind – a deliciously funny, affectionate and atmospheric picture of life in the small world of 19th-century academic Cambridge among the eccentric Darwin clan. Illustrated with Gwen’s own delightful drawings, it not only brilliantly captures a moment in time but also shows us the making of the artist Gwen was to become. As Rose Macaulay wrote when it was first published, it is ‘funny, witty, beautifully written, more than beautifully illustrated, everything such a book can be’.
Dodie Smith, Look Back with Love
Best known for her first novel I Capture the Castle, for the evergreen The Hundred and One Dalmatians, and for Dear Octopus, her 1938 play set at a family reunion, Dodie did not publish this account of her early life until 1974 when she was 78. Brought up among her mother’s family since her father had died when she was a baby, Dodie spent her childhood surrounded by doting adults. It was the jolliest environment imaginable – the Furbers adored seaside trips, motorcar outings, fairgrounds, circuses, jokes, charades and musical soirées. Above all they loved the theatre, and it was through her bachelor uncles’ involvement in amateur dramatics that she conceived her passion for the stage. Her memoir gives a wonderful picture of this large extended family and of life at that time in the ‘basking Sunday afternoon charm’ of Manchester’s Victorian suburbs. And of the funny, complicated, creative little girl who would later say of herself, ‘I think I’m an oddity really, but I do my very, very best to write well’ – which in Look Back with Love she certainly did.
Dodie Smith said she never felt ‘quite grown-up’. This may sound like an excuse for tiresome behaviour, but Dodie did retain all her life a childlike charm, being under five feet tall with a...Read more
For almost a decade there’s been one particular book we’ve been longing to reissue. Now at last, as we reach our tenth anniversary, we’ve got the opportunity to do so. When I wrote about it...Read more