Publication Date: 03/11/2022 ISBN: 9780349012292 Category:

Between Friends

Elaine Showalter, English Showalter

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publication Date: 03/11/2022 ISBN: 9780349012292 Category:




These fascinating letters between Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby tell the story of an extraordinary friendship.

‘A beautiful collection’ Daisy Dunn, Sunday Times
‘Completely fascinating’ Rachel Cooke, Observer
‘Lively, perceptive and immaculately edited’ Miranda Seymour, Literary Review
‘A moving, unvarnished chronicle of intellectual comradeship’ Sarah Watling, Telegraph

A literary relationship that began when the women met at Somerville College, Oxford, in 1919, it lasted until Winifred’s early death at the age of thirty-seven. The letters, written from 1920 to 1935, kept them ‘continuously together’, and show us the life of two pioneers who wished to make their mark as writers and campaigners. Each encouraged and advised the other. However, there were periods when they were literary rivals. Winifred landed a book deal first; Vera produced an international bestseller with Testament of Youth; and the letters show them negotiating envy and self-doubt. It was at times an uneven relationship: Vera, more than four years older, was married and had two children during this period, while Winifred, a single woman with an adventurous spirit, travelled and made a wide range of friends. As the heroine of her novel South Riding says, ‘I was born to be a spinster and by God, I’m going to spin!’ Vera decisively influenced Winifred’s passion for feminism and peace; ‘You made me,’ Winifred told her. In turn, Winifred, who took care of Vera’s children and placated her husband, gave Vera crucial intellectual and emotional support, fiercely believing in her literary gifts.

A portrait of the inter-war years and a dramatic, touching and ultimately tragic story, the letters have the hallmarks of honest female friendship: not without friction and with its own delicate co-dependency, but life-changing for them both.

Publisher Review

Fascinatingly, these letters also overturn the sentimental cliches about their relationship * The Oldie * Delivers Winifred Holtby back into Vera Brittain's ineluctable embrace -- Claudia FitzHerbert * Spectator * An astute and sympathetic reading of the two women's dynamic, and the result is a moving, unvarnished chronicle of intellectual comradeship * Telegraph * [A] lively, perceptive and immaculately edited selection * Literary Review * This volume offers a window on an intriguing relationship. * Spectator * Gordon neither lionizes nor takes down Eliot. Rather, a deep respect for and curiosity about his writing, combined with a supple psychological portrait, animates her analysis. -- Katie Roiphe * New York Times *

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