Sunday, September 25, 2011

On Angels and Muscular Poetry

Continuing my series of Sixth Birthday Celebration repeated blog posts from Raw Light's past, this odd little post is from Christmas 2005:
Several days have passed since I last updated my blog ... and no surprise there, with Christmas-a-coming and five kids in the house!

I was also struck down by one of these mystery bugs over the weekend and ended up sweating it out under a duvet on the sofa. Shades of being ten years old again and being allowed to watch telly for hours. Except now it’s the DVD collection of ANGEL I’m watching.

I only discovered BUFFY a couple of years back, having married a serious sci-fi/fantasy/horror fan, and now I have the pleasure of steadily watching my way through both BUFFY and ANGEL on DVD, courtesy of the incredibly good value home rental system on amazon. I find both highly entertaining. Especially when laid low and in desperate need of some eye-candy, as the Americans would put it. I’m referring, of course, to the sultry David Boreanaz, who plays Angel, the vampire with a soul.

So, I did my Fourcast reading at the Poetry Cafe last week and it went very well. I was nervous up until the last minute, then found it easy to slide back into performance mode. The poems I read were all new, i.e. uncollected, and some were so new they haven’t yet found their way into any magazines. I was very impressed by Martina Evans, Kevin Higgins and Jacob Sam-La Rose, the other poets reading with me that night, and it was good to see Roddy Lumsden again, who was hosting the event.

Jacob Sam-La Rose

My thanks to my husband Steve, who stoutly accompanied me down to London even though it meant he didn’t get to bed until nearly 3am and then had to get up for work again at 7am, and to my oldest and dearest friend Judy Ewart, who bought my train ticket, bless her, sat through the reading and then did something almost unheard-of at such events, and actually bought books by the other poets there. With hard cash!

Martina Evans and Kevin Higgins (first from the left)

Yes, it was an enjoyable and fruitful evening; I’ve found that reading poems to an audience is essential for testing them on the air. Otherwise you’re only hearing the poems inside the space of your own head, or as a private exchange between yourself and maybe your partner or husband or cat, whoever happens to be listening when you first try them aloud, and it can be harder to spot glitches in the rhythm or words which don’t fit as perfectly as they should. So it was a useful exercise and I did take away some thoughts on possible structural changes to the more recent poems. I also noted which poems seemed to ‘grip’ the audience more than others.

To my mind, no sin in a writer is greater than that of boring the reader or listener. So it’s a relief to find a poem within your repertoire that, like a good and trusted friend, can be relied upon in almost all circumstances: a muscular poem with broad shoulders and, even better, deep pockets.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Death Instinct: from November 2005

Continuing my reposting of old blog posts to celebrate six years of blogging here on Raw light, this poem-post comes from November 2005:

When I first started this blog, I thought it would be nice to post up some poems from time to time, but never really got around to managing that. But being deeply involved with a new novel at the moment, it seems a quick way of keeping the blog active without having to bare my soul online.

This isn't a new poem but it is one of my personal favourites. I wrote THANATOS in about 1998; it was published a year or so later in PN Review, an intelligent poetry magazine edited by Michael Schmidt of Carcanet Press (PN stands for Poetry Nation). Since my second collection is still forthcoming, it has not yet been published in book form.

[This poem appears in 'Boudicca & Co.' now available in paperback or Kindle edition. Jane]

It's never easy for a poet to 'explain' a poem they have written, but THANATOS, I suppose, is a poem which likens love to being caught in a cyclone. It's quite different from the poems in my first collection, most notably in terms of form; I'd been reading some of Ted Hughes' later work when I wrote this - his BIRTHDAY LETTERS, in particular - and I was rather taken with the prosiness (which I'm not convinced is a real word) and dramatic tone of that collection.

Thanatos comes from the Greek for death. I think it means something like 'death-instinct' - at least, that's what I took it to mean at the time I wrote this poem. Later, I agreed to medication and am no longer driven to write this sort of grim, self-involved poetry. I'm not sure if that's entirely a good thing. I prefer compulsive poetry to light anecdotal verse, and it's quite hard to write poetry of a compulsive nature when everything's sunny in your life and you're not struggling with some terrible inner demon. Though I imagine there are many poets out there who would - and probably will - disagree with that particular generalisation. Fortunately, I don't care.


Schoolgirl vulnerable, still smarting from
the fumbled mismatch of a love affair, I fell
straight out of space and into hell
that night. He was only a voice
on the edge of nothing, but I kept returning
to him, flickering like a stilled film
against the mindless black ferocity of wind.
The roof was trying to suck me out, vast mouth
clamped like a mad baby’s over the breast
of a house, whining for milk. I wanted
then to loose my hold, know how it feels
to spiral in the infinite, to Catherine-wheel
across the space that once was love.
Thanatos, pricking at my blood: the truth
that I came searching for, a weariness
that threatened to unclasp my hand, saying
it’s over, all over, why resist?
But at the other end of light, the funnelled dark
was a dead body I clung to out of
sheer stubbornness.

And the black wind
could not dislodge me from my welding-place,
though its eye bent in and saw me there,
plucked at my white knuckles, severed
the electric umbilical of light. I took
that place and hid it underneath the other times,
less brutal, more arranged. But it comes back,
obliterates that flash between dark and dawn,
and I pretend not to recognise it; call it
desire for solitude. Expurgate, disown the truth.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reading Thomas Wyatt: a post from October 2005

Continuing in my series of Sixth Birthday Celebration Repeat Postings, here is a post which has proved consistently popular with browsers since it first appeared on October 3rd, 2005. Seems there are quite a few Wyatt fans out there ...

A Tudor moment, with a glance at Whoso list to hunt (whoever chooses to hunt). This sonnet by Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) is a personal favourite of mine. It's a loose translation of Petrarch but entirely Wyatt's own, possibly written about a clandestine affair he's reputed to have had with Anne Boleyn, speaking across the centuries of frustrated love, impossible love, love at a distance.

A hind, of course, is a female deer.

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, alas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind,
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list to hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain,
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold though I seem tame.

Noli me tangere = Do not touch me (poachers of the king's deer could expect the death penalty - as could poachers of the king's wife!)

This modern version of Whoso list to hunt comes from Hardiman Scott's edition of Wyatt's Selected Poems, which is published by Carcanet Press. Here's the back cover copy for those who'd like to know more.

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542), 'the first great English lyric poet', remains one of the most popular writers of Henry VIII's court, and perhaps the most romantic, given his entanglement with Anne Boleyn, which resulted - legend has it - in some of his most passionate and vulnerable poems. This book contains a representative selection of the work: all the best-loved poems and many lesser-known pieces which illuminate a complex and sophisticated sensibility. Hardiman Scott sees Wyatt as a modern poet before his time and demonstrates the impact he and his younger contemporary the Earl of Surrey had on the development of English poetry. Wyatt introduced the sonnet, terza rima and other Italian verse forms into English, and invented forms and processes of his own.

For those trying to remember the other much-anthologised poem by Wyatt, try this link to an online copy of his superb 'They flee from me that sometime did me seek'. More on Wyatt on this blog too, in an October 2007 entry.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My first ever post on Raw Light: from September 2005

"For though my ryme be ragged,
Tattered and jagged,
Rudely rayne beaten,
Rusty and moughte eaten,
It hath in it some pyth."

I recently discovered a poetry performance venue in Coventry, called Night Blue Fruit and hosted by the Heaventree Press. It's essentially an open mic evening at the Tin Angel - a small and intimate bar on Medieval Spon Street in old Coventry - and something about the night's atmosphere kicked me back into revisiting John Skelton's work, who was a self-styled poet laureate back in the days of Henry VIII. I was thinking of one of his poems in particular, the gloriously scurrilous and jaunty Elinour Rumming, a poem of some 620 short lines dealing with the landlady and clientele of a disreputable Tudor ale house.

All through the evening at Night Blue Fruit, through the windows of the Tin Angel, we could see girls in high heels, short skirts, low-cut tops etc., out on the razzle, some of them drunk, others grazing on chips and kebabs in between night clubs. They would yell at each other, laugh as they staggered across the road for a taxi, while inside the Tin Angel the poetry continued to flow. By the time I got home there was a long poem brewing away inside me, a modern-day Elinour Rumming about poets and drunken girls and the English language ... though, of course, these things never work out the way you envisage them.

I sat up well into the early hours to finish it; a dangerous policy when you've had a few drinks. [This poem, 'Night Blue Fruit at the Tin Angel', was later a Guardian Poem of the Week - it attracted so many astonishing comments, the comments thread had to be closed after only a few days. You can read the properly formatted and finished version in Boudicca & Co. currently on Kindle promo for 86p! Jane]

But the poem was still halfway decent in the morning, which is a good sign that you haven't entirely wasted your time. I've tinkered with it since, cut some sections which weren't working, and inserted some additional sections which came into my head later. Naturally, it's a performance piece rather than what some might call a traditional poem. But would Skelton have considered that there was a difference between the two?

Over the centuries, many critics have dismissed poems like Elinour Rumming as not lyrical enough to be taken seriously or accepted into the mainstream. But I think their energy and the dynamic challenges such poems pose to the English language more than make up for a lack of formalism. That's what Skelton was about, after all; keeping English on its toes, constantly shocking and surprising us with what it can do when stretched and subverted. Some of his work is so modern, experimental and tongue-in-cheek that it's difficult to remember it was written in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century.

Here's the beginning of Skelton's famous satirical epic Phyllyp Sparowe, parodying the Offices for the Dead:

Pla ce bo,
Who is there, who?
Di le xi,
Dame Margery;
Fa, re, my, my,
Wherfore and why, why?
For the sowle of Philip Sparowe,
That was late slayn at Carowe,
Among the Nones Blake,
For that swete soules sake,
And for all sparowes soules,
Set in our bedrolles,
Pater noster qui,
With an Ave Mari,
And with the corner of a Crede,
The more shallbe your mede.

Whan I remember agayn
How mi Philyp was slayn,
Never half the payne
Was betwene you twayne,
Pyramus and Thesbe,
As than befell to me:
I wept and I wayled,
The tears downe hayled;
But nothing it avayled
To call Phylyp agayne,
Whom Gyb our cat hath slayne ...

This post was the first I ever wrote on Raw Light, back in September 2005. I shall be reposting old blog posts - my favourites, or those of interest - from previous years over the next week or so. Hope you enjoy them. Some of you may even have been there to see their original posting! Jx

Monday, September 19, 2011


This writing blog, Raw Light, is SIX YEARS OLD this month!

Amazing to think how many years it's been going strong. Yet I still haven't got bored and stopped posting. That's impressive for me. Looking back at my posting record, there have been a few dry patches here and there, but I always picked up the slack in the end.

So please wish Raw Light a Happy Birthday, and tweet it Happy Birthday too if the spirit moves you to gain me new followers!

In celebration of six successful years of blogging, I'm going to repost some favourite or significant blog posts from each year over the next few weeks. I'll put the original date in brackets alongside the title, and at the top of the post too, so hopefully people will understand it's a repeat.

 Just a trip down memory lane for me, and perhaps for those who have been faithfully following this blog since its first inane flutters of life, back in September 2005.

The tag for old posts will be #RawLightRepeats

Many thanks to ALL my readers, past and present, and to those who are now Following Raw Light.

Couldn't have done it without you! Jane x

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Boudicca & Co relaunches as Kindle edition for just 86p!

'I was dashing from poem to poem, completely compelled.' Helena Nelson, Ambit magazine

Glorious news! 

My second poetry collection, Boudicca & Co, has been launched by Salt Publishing today in a Kindle edition. You don't need a Kindle ereader to buy it, you can download free software from that page for computer or laptop, Mac or PC, and read it on your normal screen.

The paperback is 9.99. The Kindle edition is only 0.86p!

Please help to support poetry on Kindle - still an undiscovered world for most readers - by buying this book for less than a pound, or a dollar if you're in the States, and sharing this link, letting others know that it's now available in a digital edition. 

Many thanks! Below are a few of the reviews and recommendations Boudicca & Co received on first publication in paperback.
'Jane Holland's Boudicca & Co is a book of adventurous, resonant inventions. As the title suggests, it offers a new view from the interior - of both country and psyche - in which history and geography are co-opted in effortless interplay. It's a work of synthesis, and of poetic and emotional maturity, in which Holland emerges as a true craftswoman, a supple and graceful thinker with an effortless grasp of line, at the heart of the English lyric tradition.'

Fiona Sampson, Editor of Poetry Review

'I reached the fourth section of the book, the Boudicca sequence, and everything went electric ... There's a touch of Vicki Feaver about the violence and the cool delight in blood and innards, but the work is quite distinctive ... I was dashing from poem to poem, completely compelled.'

Helena Nelson, Ambit 2007

'Extremely powerful and varied ... Holland has both the clarity for the reader and the mastery of language to say what she means in a way that makes the brain tingle with both shock and pleasure ... This collection is outstanding.'

Angela Topping, Stride Magazine

'... we need only compare Holland's work with the anti-war 'poetry' of Harold Pinter to gain some indication of how rich and rewarding her response to modern conflict is - by shifting methods towards the imaginative and narrative elements of poetry, rather than the rhetorical and political. In this sense, the 'Boudicca' sequence has a great deal in common with David Harsent's Legion, which represents a similar attempt by a non-combatant poet to engage intelligently with the realities of war. This is, frankly, an outstanding collection, and Holland, as a result, can now count herself amongst the front rank of contemporary British poets.'

Simon Turner, Gists and Piths, 2007
In her unconventional aspect, Boudicca is peculiarly modern, and there are moments in the sequence, where modern wars and conflicts appear to be invading the ancient story. In ‘'Last Stand'', the woods are ‘'thick / with sniper fire'’ and Romans beat the men with ‘'rifle butts''. By breaking with the historic period of the tale, Holland comments on the repetition of atrocities and war, as if Boudicca is looking forward to the suffering and dehumanisation of twentieth-century wars. 
Zoë Brigley in English Studies
Boudicca & Co. is a bold re-imagining of Britishness. Our contemporary England of Sunday roasts and cyberspace gives way to a wild and alien landscape, a place that Holland lays glinting before us “like a coin tossed in the sun / blunt-edged, foreign.” Steeped in myth and medieval poetry, this is a land of “ruins under rain,” hares, oaks, gargoyles and the Green Man. At the heart of it, embodying both Britain’s fierce beauty and its bloodied past, is Boudicca, and her voice is a startling achievement: modern, pitch-black, funny, and yet hauntingly lyrical. Jane Holland’s second collection is full of love and astonishment, a tribute to the resilience of women, to the power of literature, and, most of all, to: “England // my beleaguered sunken island.”

Poet, Clare Pollard

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Regency Celebration Day with the RNA

Do you love Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer? Do you wish you knew how to play Loo or dance a daring waltz?

Then this event is perfect for you: A Regency Celebration Day, hosted by the Romantic Novelists Association, with a varied list of activities for everyone to enjoy.
The RNA will be holding a Regency Celebration on Saturday 8 October 2011 between 9.00am-6.00pm at the Royal Overseas League, Park Place, off St James’s Street, London SW1A 1LR (near Green Park tube station).

This event will be a celebration of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and the books they have influenced.  It coincides with the launch of a new biography of Georgette Heyer, written by Dr Jennifer Kloester, and 2011 also happens to be the bi-centenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s “Sense & Sensibility” – both perfect excuses for a Regency themed day!

The day will be a mixture of serious talks and more frivolous activities, and will include the following:-
Georgette Heyer, Her Life and Writing – Talk by Dr Jennifer Kloester
Sense & Sensibility: The Things You Didn’t Know – Talk by Amanda Grange
Austen & Heyer – Were they better than they thought they were?  Panel discussion
The Celestial Bed: Sex and the Georgians – Talk and panel discussion
Regency Scents: Odours and Malodours – Louise Allen and Christina Courtenay “sniff-and-tell”
Regency Clothing - Jane Walton demonstrates the fashions of the day
Regency Dancing – Mr and Mrs Ellis Rogers take us through the steps
Parlour Games – Learn how to play Whist, Piquet, Vingt et Un or Loo
Regency Walk – Guided tour of St James’s
Afternoon Tea **

(**  Please note, on a first come first served basis, fifty delegates will be able to attend a special afternoon tea at the East India Club in the room where the Prince Regent was given the news of the battle of Waterloo.  For everyone else, there will be afternoon tea at the Royal Overseas League.)

Throughout the day, there will be a book stall and author signings, as well as a chance to chat to authors of historical romance.  There will also be a competition and a quiz, with prizes donated by the authors.

The price for the day, including a sandwich lunch, tea and coffee, is only £55 (although for those of you wanting to attend the Waterloo Tea there is an extra charge of £18).  At lunchtime, there will also be a cash bar available for extra drinks.

It all promises to be a wonderful day, so please spread the word!

If you’d like to join us, please fill out the booking form on our site.  If you have any queries, please e-mail Pia Fenton at pia.fenton AT and you can join us on Facebook on the events page “A Regency Celebration” for regular updates. Authors – please contact Pia for a copy of our Authors’ Information Sheet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Researching Shakespeare in Stratford

I've been in this lovely cottage this week, researching Shakespeare's home life in Stratford upon Avon for the second book in my Tudor trilogy, written under the name Victoria Lamb.

I'm also writing that book at the same time and researching 'on the hoof', as it were, which is the best way to do it with such complicated historicals. It may seem easier to do all the research beforehand and then start writing. But that tends to make people research the spirit out of a book, procrastinate endlessly - just one more trip to the library! - and never begin the writing itself.

It's also a massively inefficient method for a novelist.

This is because you never know precisely what detail you may need until you start writing a scene and hit a snag - what soap would a Tudor lady have used in her bath? (Castille scented soap); how old was Kit Marlowe in the summer of 1586? (he was 22 that year) - at which point you would turn naturally to a book at your elbow or the internet. So I'm both researching and writing this week.  

Although I love being here in Stratford upon Avon, with its quaint narrow streets and distinctive black and white half-timbered houses, my favourite topics for research so far have been the Tudor spy network and the brave new world of London theatres. The theatre in particular is a fascinating area for research, being a popular entertainment that was just beginning to expand in the late 1580s, though still dogged by plagues, repressive laws, and a dearth of good writers.

His Dark Lady - the second book in my Victoria Lamb Tudor trilogy - is due on my editor's desk on October 1st.

There's still quite a mountain to climb, even with the help of this stay in Stratford. Will I make it?
You can also follow my Tudor-writing progress on Twitter, where I am @VictoriaLamb1

Friday, September 09, 2011

'Every woman adores a Fascist'

This is a blog post from earlier this year on the site I run for readers and fans of my mother, Charlotte Lamb. I decided to replicate it here as it's quite a complex piece on the nature of women writing for other women, and in particular doing so in the late seventies, and might be of interest to readers of this blog too.

Festival Summer was first published by Mills & Boon in 1977.

The Magnificent Milfords are one of England's great theatrical families - brilliant, beautiful and witty. All except Katrine, who prefers to stay at home and has no yearnings for the limelight. But this summer, at the Cantwich Festical, she falls under the spell of the brooding, enigmatic actor-director Max Neilson, who soon co-opts her as his PA. But Max has other plans for Katrine beside fetching and carrying ...

This is a very early contemporary Lamb title, written just as she is emerging from several years of writing fairly conservative historicals, and it flags up territory she will revisit in later novels about the stage or actors in general.

Charlotte Lamb had little or no contact with the professional theatre, despite the number of novels where her hero or heroine are actors. Before becoming a writer, she worked for a spell at the BBC, where she came into contact with a number of acting folk, and of course she was a great theatregoer herself while still living in the London area. Lamb's knowledge of Shakespeare was exemplary, and she knew much modern drama too, reading plays even once her many children made it difficult for her to visit the theatre in person. Yet she never showed any personal inclination to write for the stage or to act herself, preferring the solitude of the novelist's life.

In Festival Summer, Max Neilson shows all the hallmarks of a later classic Lamb hero: worldly-wise, cynical, brooding, charismatic, even domineering. The sample text in the inside front cover sums up that kind of hero's bleak outlook on life, and his reliance on the idea of a woman's destiny - which usually turns out to be a place in his bed:

He looked into her upturned face with a menacing smile. "Cowards have to learn that it's easier to fight than to run away because no matter how fast you run fate can run faster."

Katrine provides the pattern for Lamb's younger heroines, the ones who have yet to taste life and whose primary objective is to keep a low profile and hence avoid trouble. They are the emotional 'cowards' Max Neilson refers to above.

Where Festival Summer differs from some of the later Lamb titles following this same model is that Katrine has been suppressing her talent as an actress in order not to compete with her actor father and older siblings, all of whom are depicted as shallow, demanding, egotistical and self-serving - while Katrine herself is humble, modest, patient and a domestic slave. But she's not a doormat. There's an early scene in which she brushes her father aside and sorts out his clothes for him in a slightly brusque manner, making it clear that while she isn't keen on the limelight her siblings enjoy, she does need to feel in control of the household - and of them.

The first kiss appears to come over halfway through the book - too early yet for the infamous Lamb bedroom scenes - and again, sets the pattern for later sexual contact in Lamb novels of this period. Goaded beyond endurance by her stubborn refusal to admit any talent, the hero Max grabs Katrine and kisses her:

Max laughed. "Ordinary? You're as ordinary as dynamite!" He caught her by the shoulders, his fingers biting into her flesh, so that she raised her head, gasping.

'Max! You're hurt ..." The words were smothered beneath his lips as he bent his head and kissed her with violent intensity, so hard that it forced her head back and stretched her throat until it was painful.

Sounds harsh, yes? Yet one sentence later, we get this: 'A sensation of intolerable bliss burst upon her.'

Max Neilson is by no means the brutal, domineering hero of later Lamb novels, who comes along to wake the sleeping princess with a kiss - and likes to make damn sure she's aware of what's going on - but he does appear to be a prototype for that man. Indeed, these archetypal Lamb heroes are disturbingly reminiscent of Sylvia Plath's "Daddy", a visceral proto-feminist poem written about fifteen years earlier than Festival Summer:

Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

Here, the modest Katrine gets her reward. Max, who sees through her good-girl disguise to the star material beneath, tricks her into displaying her talent for all the world - but particularly her own family - to see. Because of this, she is cast in a major role, acting alongside her father and sister in the play festival of the title, and gains everyone's admiration. 'You could be a great actress,' Max tells her, near the end of the book.

In the final chapter, we see that Katrine's talent is undeniable, a shining future in theatre absolutely guaranteed. So does she pursue a career in the theatre, and outshine her talented father and siblings? No, because Max asks her to marry him immediately after the festival and she readily agrees, insisting that she wants to have children, not a career.

Those five minutes of fame are all Katrine wants - swiftly reverting to good-girl type before any of her readers can throw the book across the room. She will be quite happy to return to ironing shirts and cleaning up after other people, now she has a man in her life. Here the heroine validates the domestic drudgery of the typical late seventies romance reader by giving up her own dreams too and choosing marriage instead of a career.

Max resists for a few lines, 'incredulous' at this unthinking sacrifice: 'You mean you would give up the theatre, despite having made such a hit, just to have babies?' and then rapidly capitulates. But Katrine has earned the good virgin's reward with her sacrifice. His brooding violence is gone. She has tamed the beast, and now finds 'passion' in his eyes instead of anger and impatience.

It's hard to read these earlier Lamb novels now without being aware of how much British society has changed since the mid-late seventies. Yet these main characters are drawn in a complex way, with deeply contradictory impulses and hang-ups Freud would have recognised, something which is not always true of today's more politically correct short romances. Even the secondary characters here, the rest of the Magnificent Milfords - the flamboyant and emotionally flawed father, in particular - are masterpieces of psychological understanding.

Nor is Katrine's decision to abandon a career in acting irrelevant to today's readers, despite the three decades that have elapsed since it was written. Most women these days still face the same choice that Katrina faces here (even if she doesn't see it as a dilemma) once children arrive. Now, however, women are expected to 'have it all' - which, in real terms, means we are expected to cope with both the responsibility of raising children and the demands of an ongoing career - where that possibility would not have been open to the vast majority of women in post-war Britain, when my own mother was having her first children.

The irony of all this, of course, is that the writer herself was managing to do both, whilst tacitly condoning her heroine's decision to throw away her chance of a glittering career and be a 'stay at home mum' instead.

Visit the Charlotte Lamb fan blog, or see her books listed on Wikipedia.