Penelope Fitzgerald's biography of her remarkable family.
`When I was very young I took my uncles for granted, and it never occurred to me that everyone else in the world was not like them.'
In this, only her second book, Penelope Fitzgerald turned her novelist's gaze on the quite extraordinary lives of her father and his three brothers. A masterly work of biography, within which we see Penelope Fitzgerald exercising her pen magnificently before she began her novel-writing career.
Edmund Knox, her father, was one of the most successful editors of Punch. Dillwyn, a Cambridge Greek scholar, was the first to crack the Nazi's message decoding system, Enigma, and in so doing, is estimated to have shortened the Second World War by six months. Wilfred became an Anglo-Catholic priest and an active welfare worker in the East End of London. Ronald, the best known of the four during his lifetime, was Roman Catholic chaplain to Oxford University's student body, preacher, wit, scholar, crime-writer and translator of the Bible.
A homage to a long-forgotten world and a fascinating account of the generation straddling the divide between late Victorian and Edwardian.
`Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality - the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.' Sebastian Faulks
`Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.' David Nicholls
`A portrait of English intelligence, religion, eccentricity, pig-headedness and wisdom, written with directness and wit.' A.S. Byatt
`A funny, tender, clever book. A study in a lost civilisation...destined to become a 20th century classic.' Richard Holmes
Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. Three of her novels, The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the Prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the `Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award. She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.