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Underrated Novelists Week: Ursula Orange

It was entirely unintentional that all of the authors I have put forward for this week’s Underrated Novelists compilation are women, but so it goes.  Ursula Orange is my fifth and final choice in this showcase; she has recently been reprinted by Dean Street Press, but still seems relatively unknown.

Ursula Orange (1909-1955)
Nationality: British

Biography: orange
Very little is known about Ursula Orange.  She was born in 1909 to Hugh William Orange, who received a knighthood for his contributions to education in India.  She married Dennis Tindall, with whom she gave birth to a daughter, the novelist Gillian Tindall, who has suggested that her mother committed suicide.  Orange worked as an assistant secretary for the British Poetry Society.

Bibliography:
Begin Again (1936)
To Sea in a Sieve (1937)
Tom Tiddler’s Ground (1941)
Have Your Cake (1942)
Company in the Evening (1944)
Portrait of Adrian (1945)

9781911579274Book to begin with: Begin Again
‘Oxford, it appeared, if it did not seem to have fitted her for any precise occupation, had at least unfitted her for a great many things. In her charming and incisive debut novel, Ursula Orange focuses her sharp eye on four young women only recently down from Oxford. Jane and Florence live in London, working at office jobs, the latter channelling her excess energy into a dreadfully earnest novel of her own. Sylvia remains at home, shocking her family with theories of sexual and social liberation. And Leslie, as the novel opens, idealizes the other three, as she tries to convince her mother to let her use her small nest egg to attend art school in London. As the four friends balance their youthful ideals with the realities of work and romance in 1930s England, Orange offers hilarious and thoughtful perspectives on the quandaries of educated, ambitious women in a world not yet ready for them. ‘

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Underrated Novelists Week: Eve Chase

Eve Chase is arguably my most contemporary choice for my Underrated Novelists Week; whilst Beatrice Colin is also a contemporary author, Chase has had work published most recently.  I have only read one of Chase’s books to date, but was absolutely wowed by it, and cannot wait to get stuck into her debut novel, and whatever is coming next.

Eve Chase (real name unknown)
Lives: Oxford, United Kingdom

Biography: 8934674
Eve Chase is the pseudonym of a journalist who has worked extensively across the press within the UK.  She likes to write about families, and lives with her own in Oxford.

Bibliography:
Black Rabbit Hall (2015)
– The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde (2017; also published as The Wildling Sisters)

Book to begin with: The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde
31851231Nineteen fifty-nine. The four Wilde sisters, Isla, Violet, Maggie and Dot, are spending the summer in the Cotswolds, at Applecote Manor. Affectionately called the Wildlings, the sisters are exceptionally close, yet this year there’s a sense of nostalgia. Things are changing.  Except for Applecote itself, a house that seems frozen in time. The sisters haven’t been there in five years; not since their cousin Audrey mysteriously vanished.  But as they discover Applecote’s dark secrets and new temptations, the sisters begin to grow apart. Until the night everything spirals out of control and the Wildlings form a bond far thicker than blood . . .

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Underrated Novelists Week: Penelope Mortimer

Penelope Mortimer is my third choice for this week’s Underrated Novelists Week.  I have only read one of her books to date, The Pumpkin Eater, as most are proving quite difficult to get hold of, but I recently reread the aforementioned tome, and found even more to enjoy and startle me.

Penelope Mortimer (nee Fletcher; 1918-1999)
Born in: Flintshire, Wales
Died in: Kensington, London
Education: University College London

Biography: penelopemortimer_thumbnail
Penelope Mortimer had a rather unsettled childhood, moving between many different schools, and suffering sexually abuse by her clergyman father.  She attended University College London, but left after just one year.  She married twice and had extramarital affairs, giving birth to six children in all, by four different men.  She suffered frequent bouts of depression, and in 1962, the year in which The Pumpkin Eater was written, agreed to an abortion and sterilisation at her then husband’s urging, something which is reflected within this highly-autobiographical novel.  Career-wise, she worked as a journalist, with work appearing frequently in The New Yorker, and an agony aunt column in The Daily Mail.  She died from cancer at the age of eighty-one.

Bibliography:
Johanna (1947; as Penelope Dimont)
A Villa in Summer (1954)
The Bright Prison (1956)
Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (1958; reprinted by Persephone Books)
The Pumpkin Eater (1962)
My Friend Says It’s Bulletproof (1968)
The Home (1971)
Long Distance (1974)
Saturday Lunch With the Brownings (1977; short stories)
About Time (1979; autobiography)
The Handyman (1983)
– About Time Too
(1993; autobiography)

26021671Book to begin with: The Pumpkin Eater
“The Pumpkin Eater “is a surreal black comedy about the wages of adulthood and the pitfalls of parenthood. A nameless woman speaks, at first from the precarious perch of a therapist’s couch, and her smart, wry, confiding, immensely sympathetic voice immediately captures and holds our attention. She is the mother of a vast, swelling brood of children, also nameless, and the wife of a successful screenwriter, Jake Armitage. The Armitages live in the city, but they are building a great glass tower in the country in which to settle down and live happily ever after. But could that dream be nothing more than a sentimental delusion? At the edges of vision the spectral children come and go, while our heroine, alert to the countless gradations of depression and the innumerable forms of betrayal, tries to make sense of it all: doctors, husbands, movie stars, bodies, grocery lists, nursery rhymes, messes, aging parents, memories, dreams, and breakdowns. How to pull it all together? Perhaps you start by falling apart.

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Underrated Novelists Week: Josephine Winslow Johnson

My Underrated Novelists Week continues with Josephine Winslow Johnson, an absolutely wonderful author, whom barely anyone seems to have heard of, despite her winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her debut novel, Now in November.

41cx2tqi5ll-_ux250_Josephine Winslow Johnson (1910-1990)
Born in: Kirkwood, Missouri
Died in: Batavia, Ohio
Education: Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

Biography:
Josephine Johnson attended Washington University between 1926 and 1931, but did not earn a degree.  She won the Pulitzer Prize for her first novel, when she was just twenty-four years old.  Johnson went on to publish several books, before marrying Grant G. Gannon in 1942, and moving to Iowa City.  She taught at the University of Iowa for three years, before giving birth to one son and three daughters.  She and her husband moved again, from Iowa to Hamilton County in Ohio, and finally settled in Clermont County in the same state.  She died of pneumonia at the age of seventy-nine.

Bibliography:
Now in November (1934)
Winter Orchard and Other Stories (1936)
Jordanstown (1937)
Year’s End (1939; poetry)
Paulina Pot (1939; children’s)
Wildwood (1947)
The Dark Traveler (1963)
The Sorcerer’s Son and Other Stories (1965)
The Inland Island (1969; essays)
Seven Houses (1973; memoir)
The Circle of Seasons (1974)

Book to begin with: Now in November 2702515
Brilliant, evocative, poetic, savage, this Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel (1934) written when Josephine Winslow Johnson was only 24, depicts a white, middle-class urban family that is turned into dirt-poor farmers by the Depression and the great drought of the thirties. The novel moves through a single year and, at the same time, a decade of years, from the spring arrival of the family at their mortgaged farm to the winter 10 years later, when the ravages of drought, fire, and personal anguish have led to the deaths of two of the five. Like Ethan Frome, the relatively brief, intense story evokes the torment possible among people isolated and driven by strong feelings of love and hate that, unexpressed, lead inevitably to doom. Reviewers in the thirties praised the novel, calling its prose “profoundly moving music,” expressing incredulity “that this mature style and this mature point of view are those of a young women in her twenties,” comparing the book to “the luminous work of Willa Cather,” and, with prescience, suggesting that it “has that rare quality of timelessness which is the mark of first-rate fiction.”

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