In ‘What I Believe’, an incendiary essay on the Humanist ideas that informed the majority of his work, E M Forster writes ‘if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.’ Perhaps no-one has put this idea into practice with greater commitment than Diana Mitford, who scandalised British society with her marriage to Oswald Mosley and allegiance to Adolf Hitler, even as the true extent of fascism’s horrors came to light through the course of the twentieth century. ‘Probably one will not be asked to make such an agonizing choice,’ continues Forster in 1938. But in times of war, for a well-connected member of the upper classes, there was always likely to be a conflict of the personal and the national.
EXCERPT FROM ‘ONLY CONNECT’, FEATURE-LENGTH PIECE IN THE MITFORD SOCIETY ANNUAL VOL. 2, ED. LYNDSY SPENCE, PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2014.
ON: DIANA MITFORD, E M FORSTER, HUMANISM, FRIENDSHIP, HETEROSOCIALITY, THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP, VICTORIAN & EDWARDIAN ERAS. MORE INFO.
Editor-in-chief of British Vogue since 1992, and sartorial contributor to a slew of other publications, Alexandra Shulman has so far veered away from staging her fiction in the fashion world, but still retains an immaculate knack for describing her characters’ garb in mouth-watering detail. The Parrots, Shulman’s second novel, is a story of brightly-feathered exotic birds, both literal and otherwise, and the whirlwind effect of their arrival in the lives of the well-heeled, well-bred Tennison family. In spring a small group of parrots begin to roost in the cherry tree branches of the family’s back garden, charming with their vivid beauty even as they chase out the meeker birds, wilfully destroying the eggs from their nests, turning dull order to chaos. By summer the Tennisons, one by one, are similarly bedazzled by a small group of glamorous, moneyed Europeans, soon tempted into a series of dangerous – or at the very least woefully ill-considered – liaisons.
EXCERPT FROM FEATURE-LENGTH REVIEW OF THE PARROTS BY ALEXANDRA SHULMAN (2015), AVAILABLE IN FULL AT FOR BOOKS’ SAKE, PUBLISHED JULY 2015.
ON: ALEXANDRA SHULMAN, FASHION WRITING, INFIDELITIES, TECHNOLOGY, THE INTERNET, 1980S & 2010S, EDITH WHARTON, DONNA TARTT, HENRY GREEN.
Set in the East Village in 2004, Heroic Measures is the story of a city still raw from 9/11 while simultaneously cresting an economic boom. Over the course of one long winter’s weekend, the seventy-something Cohens debate cashing in with the sale of their five-floor walk-up, bought for a pittance in the 1950s. Though loathe to leave their beloved neighbourhood – and even less keen to have to change pharmacy – the quoted modern price-tag of their apartment, just shy of one million dollars, evokes too-tempting visions for these children of immigration and Depression: ‘Fred Estaire dancing in top hat and tails’, or – more to the point – a functioning elevator.
EXCERPT FROM FEATURE-LENGTH REVIEW OF HEROIC MEASURES BY JILL CIMENT (2009), AVAILABLE IN FULL AT FOR BOOK’S SAKE, PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2015.
ON: JILL CIMENT, 2000S, NYC, SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE, AGING, DOGS, AGING DOGS.