Amateurs in Eden: The Story of a Bohemian Marriage: Nancy and Lawrence Durrell

Joanna Hodgkin

Amateurs in Eden: The Story of a Bohemian Marriage: Nancy and Lawrence Durrell

Nancy Durrell has always been an enigma. To her husband Lawrence, future author of the Alexandria Quartet, she was his introduction to bohemian London, his companion during his formative years and the inspiration for some of his finest poetry. Here at last is Nancy's story. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, she was the provincial schoolgirl who was transformed overnight into a young woman of haunting beauty. From the smoky pubs of 1930s Fitzrovia to the sexual mayhem of the Villa Seurat in Paris, and a remote village in pre-war Corfu, her story shines new light on an extraordinary group of people. 3.2 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
Amateurs in Eden: The Story of a Bohemian Marriage: Nancy and Lawrence Durrell

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format Hardback
Pages 352
RRP £25.00
Date of Publication February 2012
ISBN 978-1844087938
Publisher Virago
 

Nancy Durrell has always been an enigma. To her husband Lawrence, future author of the Alexandria Quartet, she was his introduction to bohemian London, his companion during his formative years and the inspiration for some of his finest poetry. Here at last is Nancy's story. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, she was the provincial schoolgirl who was transformed overnight into a young woman of haunting beauty. From the smoky pubs of 1930s Fitzrovia to the sexual mayhem of the Villa Seurat in Paris, and a remote village in pre-war Corfu, her story shines new light on an extraordinary group of people.

Reviews

The Independent

Lesley McDowell

This is not just a memoir of her mother. This is the history of a literary wife. On both counts, Hodgkin succeeds beautifully.

10/02/2012

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The Sunday Times

Miranda Seymour

Eden, indeed. Hodgkin’s vivid new account of that paradisiacal world evokes all of its wild enchantment, deepening the sadness of the heartbreaking follow-up: a time of estrangement and cruelty … Hodgkin has done both Nancy and herself proud with this fresh portrait of a marriage we thought we knew, and of a woman we have never known well enough.

05/02/2012

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The Spectator

Richard Davenport-Hines

The best parts of Amateurs in Eden describe Nancy’s calm, gentle life as Mrs Hodgkin, and have little to do with the tempestuous Durrell phase. After some discontented years in postwar England, she became a tender, demonstrative, original-minded woman, whose cheerful, shrewd love for her daughters is delightfully evoked. This is a disarming, understated book. Only a brute would sneer at its chronicle of domestic furies and affections, told in a tone of simple thanksgiving.

11/02/2012

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The Guardian

Blake Morrison

Amateurs in Eden is a daughter's loyal tribute, drawing on a memoir her mother began and on her own memories of conversations they had. The book doesn't do much to advance Nancy's reputation as an artist, most of her paintings having been lost or destroyed. Nor has it much to say about Larry's fiction. But it's an enjoyable, revisionist account of a bohemian marriage. And a smack in the face for Durrell acolytes who think the great man deserved a worthier first mate.

11/02/2012

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The Economist

The Economist

Ms Hodgkin understandably takes her mother’s side, but she is at pains to stress that there are many ways to tell the story of a marriage. Despite some misprints, incorrect dates and verbal infelicities, her account is of interest.

18/02/2012

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The Daily Mail

Bel Mooney

You don’t close this book feeling — as the author wishes you to — that this was a great romance between two individuals ‘who had tried and failed’.  It is moving, nevertheless, to read that 25 years after she had left him, Nancy heard of the death of Durrell’s third wife and asked, ‘Who will look after him now?’ It was the only time Joanna Hodgkin saw her mother cry.

17/02/2012

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The Mail on Sunday

Kathryn Hughes

Hodgkin has not written a bitter book … This is an interesting place to start if you are interested not just in Lawrence but in the whole family, and the true story behind their four years in paradise.

26/02/2012

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The Observer

Olivia Laing

It's a cracking story, and Hodgkin, who writes historical and detective fiction as Joanna Hines, is a meticulous researcher. But while the externals of Nancy's life are evidently more than deserving of such scrutiny, the woman herself often seems to vanish beneath the drama of what's going on around her.

05/02/2012

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The Financial Times

Virginia Rounding

With such a cast of characters, at such a time, and with access to primary sources, this should have been a fascinating book … But, despite her credentials as a novelist (she writes crime fiction under the name Joanna Hines), Hodgkin’s style is tedious. Novels are described as “groundbreaking”, fan letters are “ardent”, while affairs are “tempestuous or turbulent”. And, when in doubt, the author tells us that something happened “for some reason”. These may seem pernickety points, but clichéd language often denotes clichéd thinking — precisely what Hodgkin had hoped to avoid.

13/01/2012

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