‘Magic or Miracles’: The Fallen World of Penelope Fitzgerald’s Novels

  • Jean Sudrann


Penelope Fitzgerald does not fit easily into the rubric of contemporary British women writers under which these essays are gathered. Born in 1916, she reached adulthood in the decades between the Great War to end all wars and World War Two and published no fiction until 1977 when she was 60. Her closest approach to experiment in the form of her fiction is her frequent use of ironic closures with their attendant ambiguities and a habit of building in very short chapters or simply numbered, seemingly discrete, brief episodes whose sequence creates a significance not apparent in the episode itself. She does not write to explore (or exploit) the wrongs peculiar to female lives, nor is she particularly fond of domestic spaces for her settings. Of the two novels that pay most attention to domestic problems, one, Offshore, has for its home-setting a derelict barge named Grace moored in the Thames Reach near London’s Battersea Bridge, while the other, Innocence, set in Florence, keeps up a rapid movement between a decaying family farm, an abandoned villa, and an ancient Palazzo, now divided into flats. The other five novels are primarily set in work-places: a museum, a bookshop, the central London studios of the BBC, a London school for child-actors, and a Moscow printing shop owned in 1915 by a youngish Englishman.


Human Voice Almond Tree York Time Book Review Tourist Bureau Roman Catholic Priest 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

A Bibliography of Writings by Penelope Fitzgerald


  1. The Golden Child (London: Duckworth, 1977; New York: Scribner, 1977).Google Scholar
  2. The Bookshop (London: Duckworth, 1978).Google Scholar
  3. Offshore (London: Collins, 1979; New York: Henry Holt, 1979).Google Scholar
  4. Human Voices (London: Collins, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. At Freddie’s (London: Collins, 1982; Boston: Godine, 1985).Google Scholar
  6. Innocence (London: Collins, 1986; New York: Henry Holt, 1986).Google Scholar
  7. The Beginning of Spring (London: Collins, 1988; New York: Henry Holt, 1988).Google Scholar
  8. The Gate of Angels (London: Collins, 1990; New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 1992).Google Scholar


  1. Edward Burne-Jones: A Biography (London: Joseph, 1975).Google Scholar
  2. The Knox Brothers (London: Macmillan, 1977; New York: Coward, McMann & Geoghegan, 1977).Google Scholar
  3. William Morris, ‘The Novel on Blue Paper’, introduction by Fitzgerald (Dickens Studies Annual: Essays in Victorian Fiction 10 (1982): 143–51).Google Scholar
  4. William Morris, The Novel on Blue Paper, introduced and edited by Fitzgerald (West Nyack, New York: The Journeyman Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  5. L. H. Myers, The Root and the Flower, introduced by Fitzgerald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  6. Charlotte Mew and Her Friends (London: Collins, 1984; American edition: Charlotte Mew and Her Friends: with a Selection of Her Poems. Foreword by Brad Leithauser. Radcliffe Biography Series. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1988).Google Scholar
  7. Mrs [Margaret] Oliphant, Chronicles of Carlingsford: The Rector and The Doctor’s Family, introduction by Fitzgerald (London: Virago, 1986; New York: Penguin, 1986).Google Scholar
  8. Mrs Oliphant, Chronicles of Carlingford: Salem Chapel, introduction by Fitzgerald (London: Virago, 1986; New York: Penguin, 1986).Google Scholar
  9. Mrs Oliphant, Chronicles of Carlingford: The Perpetual Curate, introduction by Fitzgerald (London: Virago, 1987; New York: Penguin, 1987).Google Scholar
  10. Mrs Oliphant, Chronicles of Carlingford: Miss Marjoribanks, introduced by Fitzgerald (London: Virago, 1988; New York: Penguin, 1989).Google Scholar
  11. Mrs Oliphant, Chronicles of Carlingford: Phoebe Junior, introduced by Fitzgerald (London: Virago, 1988; New York: Penguin, 1989).Google Scholar

Articles and Reviews

  1. ‘Following the Plot’, London Review of Books 2 (21 February 1980): 12–13.Google Scholar
  2. ‘Gringo’ [The Colonist by Michael Schmidt], London Review of Books 2 (21 August–3 September 1980): 21–2.Google Scholar
  3. ‘A Secret Richness’ [A Few Green Leaves by Barbara Pym], London Review of Books 2 (20 November–4 December 1980): 22.Google Scholar
  4. ‘Dear Lad’ [The Simple Life: C. R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds by Fiona MacCarthy: Philip Mairet: Autobiographical and Other Papers, edited by C. H. Sisson], London Review of Books 3 (19 March–1 April 1981): 16.Google Scholar
  5. ‘Jerusalem’ [Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith, edited by Jack Barbera and William McBrien], London Review of Books 3 (3–16 December 1981): 13.Google Scholar
  6. ‘Christina and the Sid’ [Christina Rossetti: A Divided Life by Georgina Battiscombe; The Golden Veil by Paddy Kitchen; The Little Holland HouseAlbum by Edward Burne-Jones, introduced by John Christian], LondonReview of Books 4 (18–31 March 1982): 21–2.Google Scholar
  7. ‘Lotti’s Leap’ [Collected Poems and Prose by Charlotte Mew, edited by Val Warner], London Review of Books 4 (1–14 July 1982): 15–16.Google Scholar
  8. ‘Sonata for Second Fiddle’ [A Half of Two Lives: A Personal Memoir by Alison Waley], London Review of Books 4 (7–20 October 1982): 12.Google Scholar
  9. ‘Keeping Warm’ [Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner by William Maxwell; The Portrait of a Tortoise by Gilbert White, with Introduction and Notes by Sylvia Townsend Warner; Sylvia Townsend Warner: Collected Poems, edited by Claire Harman; Scenes of Childhood and Other Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner], London Review of Books 4 (30 December 1982–19 January 1983): 22–3.Google Scholar
  10. ‘Dear Sphinx’ [The Little Ottleys by Ada Leverson, introduced by Sally Beauman; The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy, introduced by Anita Brookner; The Constant Nymph: A Study of Margaret Kennedy 1896–1967 by Violet Powell], London Review of Books 5 (1–21 December 1983): 19.Google Scholar
  11. ‘The Real Johnny Hall’ [Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall by Michael Baker]. London Review of Books 7 (30 October 1985): 19.Google Scholar
  12. ‘Holy Terrors’ [‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ by Karen Usborne; Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child by Denis Judd; Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William by Mary Cadogan], London Review of Books 8 (4 December 1986): 18.Google Scholar
  13. ‘Vous etes belle’ [The Lost Domain by Henri Alain-Fournier, translated by H. Davidson; Henri Alain-Fournier: Towards the Lost Domain: Letters from London 1905, edited and translated by W. J. Strachan; Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life 1886–1914 by David Arkell], London Review of Books 9 (8 January 1987) 12.Google Scholar
  14. ‘Various Women’ [A Voyager Out: The Life of Mary Kingsley by Katherine Frank; Marilyn by Gloria Steinem, with photographs by George Barris; Joe and Marilyn: A Memory of Love by Roger Kahn; I leap over the wall by Monica Baldwin, introduced by Karen Karmstrong; Diary of a Zen Nun: A Moving Chronicle of Living Zen by Nan Shin (Nancy Amphoux)], London Review of Books 9 (2 April 1987): 15–16.Google Scholar
  15. ‘Kay Demarest’s War’ [The Other Garden by Francis Wyndham; The Engine of Owl-light by Sebastian Barry; A Singular Attraction by Ita Daly; Cold Spring Harbor by Richard Yates; The Changeling by Catharine Arnold], London Review of Books 9 (17 September 1987): 22.Google Scholar
  16. ‘Dame Cissie’ [Family Memories by Rebecca West, edited by F. Evans; Rebecca West: A Life by Victoria Glendenning], London Review of Books 9 (26 December 1987): 17.Google Scholar
  17. ‘Big Books’ [William Morris: An Approach to the Poetry by J. M. S. Tompkins], London Review of Books 10 (15 September 1988): 23.Google Scholar
  18. ‘Megawoman’ [Olive Schreiner: Letters, Vol. 1:1871–1899 edited by Richard Rive], London Review of Books 10 (13 October 1988): 11.Google Scholar
  19. ‘Do You Have the Courage to Cry?’ [The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette by Toghi Modarressi], New York Times Book Review, 13 August 1989, 7.Google Scholar
  20. ‘White Nights’ [In the Beginning by Irina Ratushinskaya; Goodnight by Abram Tertz; Comrade Princess: Memoirs of an Aristocrat in Modern Russia by Ekaterina Meshcherskaya], London Review of Books, 18 (11 October 1990).Google Scholar
  21. ‘The Great Encourager’ [Ford Madox Ford by Alan Judd], New York Times Book Review (10 March 1991): 7.Google Scholar
  22. Book Review [A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf by Jane Dunn], The Charleston Magazine 3 (Summer/Autumn 1991): 42–4.Google Scholar
  23. ‘Luck Dispensers’ [The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan], London Review of Books (11 July 1991): 19.Google Scholar
  24. ‘Good as Boys’ [The Type of Girl: A History of Girls’ Independent Schools by Gillian Avery; There’s Something about A Convent Girl by Jackie Bennett and Rosemary Forgan], London Review of Books (15 August 1991): 23.Google Scholar
  25. ‘Fried Nappy’ [The Van by Roddy Doyle, London Review of Books (12 September 1991): 16.Google Scholar
  26. ‘Children’s Children’ [Grandmothers Talking by Nell Dunn], London Review of Books (7 November 1991): 7.Google Scholar
  27. ‘Lasting Impressions’ [The Kelmscott Press: A History of William Morris’s Typographical Adventure by William S. Peterson], The New York Times Book Review (15 December 1991): 19.Google Scholar

A Bibliography of Writings about Penelope Fitzgerald

  1. Brookner, Anita, ‘Moscow Before the Revolution’ [The Beginning of Spring], The Spectator (1 October 1988): 29–30.Google Scholar
  2. Brookner, Anita, ‘Daisy Pulls It Off’ [The Gate Of Angels], The Spectator (1 September 1990): 31–2.Google Scholar
  3. Byatt, Antonia, ‘The Isle Full of Noises’ [Human Voices], Times Literary Supplement (26 September 1980): 1057.Google Scholar
  4. Callendar, Newgate, The Golden Child, New York Times Book Review (1 April 1979): 21.Google Scholar
  5. Cole, Catherine Wells, ‘Penelope Fitzgerald’, in Dictionary of Literary Biography 14, ed. Jay L. Halio, British Novelists since 1960, Part I: A-G (Michigan: Gale, 1983): 302–8.Google Scholar
  6. Glendinning, Victoria, ‘Between Land and Water’ [Offshore], The Times Literary Supplement (23 November 1979): 10.Google Scholar
  7. Heller, Zoe, ‘Affairs of the Heart in Defiance of Reason’ [The Gate of Angels], Independent (25 August 1990): 29.Google Scholar
  8. Hosmer, Robert E. Jr., ‘Penelope Fitzgerald’, An Encyclopaedia of British Women Writers, ed. Paul Schlueter and Jane Schlueter: 176–178 (New York and London: Garland, 1988).Google Scholar
  9. Hosmer, Robert E. Jr., ‘Penelope Fitzgerald’, Dictionary of British Women Writers, ed. Janet Todd: 252–4 (London: Routledge, 1989).Google Scholar
  10. Kellaway, Kate, ‘A Bicycle Made for Two’ [The Gate of Angels], The Listener (23 August 1990): 24.Google Scholar
  11. Kermode, Frank, ‘The Duckworth School of Writers’ [Human Voices] London Review of Books (20 November–4 December 1980): 18.Google Scholar
  12. Lee, Hermione, ‘Down by the Thames’ [Offshore], The Observer (2 September 1979): 37.Google Scholar
  13. Lively, Penelope, ‘Five of the Best’ [Human Voices], Encounter (January 1981): 53–9.Google Scholar
  14. Lively, Penelope, ‘Backwards and Forwards: Recent Fiction’ [At Freddie’s], Encounter (June–July 1982): 86–91.Google Scholar
  15. Longford, Frank, ‘A Unique Quartet of Brothers’ [The Knox Brothers], Contemporary Review (April 1978): 216–18.Google Scholar
  16. ‘The Old Firm’ [Edward Burne-Jones: A Biography], The Economist (27 September 1975): 119.Google Scholar
  17. ‘Penelope Fitzgerald’, Contemporary Literary Criticism 51: 123–27 (Michigan: Gale, 1989).Google Scholar
  18. Plunket, Robert, ‘Dear, Slovenly Mother Russia’ [The Beginning of Spring], New York Times Book Review (7 June 1989): 15.Google Scholar
  19. Rumens, Carol, ‘Assaults on the Rational’ [The Gate of Angels], New Statesman (1 September 1990): 31–2.Google Scholar
  20. Stead, C. K., ‘Chiara Ridolfi’ [Innocence], London Review of Books (9 October 1986): 21–2.Google Scholar
  21. Walters, Margaret, ‘Women’s Fiction’ [The Beginning of Spring], London Review of Books (13 October 1988): 20.Google Scholar
  22. Ward, Elizabeth, ‘Love in Florence’ [Innocence], Washington Post Book World 12 July 1987: 4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert E. Hosmer Jr. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Sudrann

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations