One of my great pleasures of the 2013/2014 holidays has been re-reading the first four volumes of Elizabeth Jane Howard‘s Cazalet Chronicles preparatory to reading the fifth, All Change, published in November 2013.
So it was very sad to read that Howard died on the second of January 2014. Her work was sometimes dismissed as ‘women’s fiction’, and some of the headlines announcing her death were enough to make the blood boil. “Novelist who inspired stepson Martin Amis dies” and “Kingsley Amis’ ex-wife dies”. Unbelievable. Why did they not just say “Woman lives for 90 years completely defined by men”?
Sybille Bedford is quoted on the covers of the Cazalet Chronicles as saying that Howard will be like Anthony Trollope, someone we read to understand how life was lived, and that seems to be a fair assessment. The Cazalets certainly live and breathe for me, perhaps because they were so closely based on Howard’s family, if Slipstream, her fine autobiography, is to be believed.
If you haven’t read them, give them a go. Her other books are good, but I think she’ll be remembered for the story of the Cazalets at war. Not for who she was married to, or slept with, or step-parented.