Monday, January 20, 2014

Elizabeth Jane Howard, a great writer

Fans of the wonderful British writers like Penelope Lively, Margot Lively, Margaret Drabble, Doris Lessing and so many others, will be saddened to hear about the death of one of the best, Elizabeth Jane Howard at 90.  Howard was a master story teller, best known for her series The Cazalets, a sort of modern Downton Abbey family, whose many members led varied and surprising  lives as they faced the challenges of  World War II.

Howard was a master of interior dialogue. She often focused a chapter on one character, letting that person take over the story and delving into their problems with sympathy and insight. Her chapter on Louise in the novel Confusions (Cazalet Series) is one of the best I have ever read describing the dashed hopes of a young married woman. Howard's  use of back story shows exquisite skill. She simply allows the character to muse about the past. I say" simply" but as any writer knows, it is not easy to segue naturally  into back story and many writers avoid if it they can.

Howard was often put down by the phalanx of male reviewers as a "woman's novelist." Too bad for them. I have spend many enjoyable hours with a Howard book.  Most of Howard's novels are available at the local library and, be warned, the books are often well worn, a testament to her popularity.

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