Page 48 - PB Cat 1999-2021
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 NO 47
Lettice Cooper in the 1930s
‘All that outwardly happens in
The New House,’ writes Jilly Cooper in her Persephone preface,‘is over one long day a family moves from a large imposing secluded house with beautiful gardens to a small one overlooking a housing estate. But all the characters and their relationships with each other are so lovingly portrayed that one cares passionately what happens even to the unpleasant ones.
‘The New House, first published in 1936, reminds me of my favourite author Chekhov, who so influenced Lettice’s generation of writers. Like him, she had
perfect social pitch and could draw an arriviste developer as convincingly as a steely Southern social butterfly.’
‘It is tempting to describe Rhoda Powell, the 30-plus, stay-at-home daughter of a widowed mother, as Brookneresque,’ wrote the reviewer in the Guardian, ‘even though Lettice Cooper wrote this wonderfully understated novel several decades before Anita Brookner mapped the defining features of quietly unhappy middle-class women.’While Kate Chisholm in
The Spectator described Lettice Cooper as ‘an intensely domestic novelist, unravelling in minute detail the tight web of family relations’ but one who is also ‘acutely aware of what goes on beyond the garden gate.The exposé of a family under strain because of changing times is curiously more vivid and real than in many novels about family life written today.’
The endpaper fabric for The New House is taken from ‘Rope and Dandelion’, a block- printed velvet designed and printed by Margaret Calkin James for her new house, ‘Hornbeams’ in Hampstead Garden
Suburb, in 1936.
336pp PERSEPHONE BOOKS ISBN 9781903155370

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