In the opening chapter of God Help the Child, Sweetness regards her newborn daughter, Lula Ann, with disgust for the darkness of her skin, many shades darker than her own and so much darker than her father’s that it leads to marital suspicion and eventual abandonment. Lulu Ann is not just black but ‘blue-black’, and Sweetness’s feelings emanate from fear of all that her child will have to contend with. Yet this, the source of so much historical shame, and blame, between past mothers and daughters, is reconfigured in contemporary America. Lula-Ann reinvents herself, in adult life, as ‘Bride’, an ambitious businesswoman working in cosmetics, not only in control of her life but also traffic-stoppingly beautiful. ‘Everywhere I went I got double takes but not like the faintly disgusted ones I used to get as a kid. These were adoring looks, stunned but hungry.’
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'Only in Britain, perhaps, could spy chiefs – conventionally viewed as masters of subterfuge – be so highly regarded as ethical guides.'
In this month's Bookends, @AdamCSDouglas looks at the curious life of Henry Labouchere: a friend of Bram Stoker, 'loose cannon', and architect of the law that outlawed homosexual activity in Britain.
'We have all twenty-nine of her Barsetshire novels, and whenever a certain longing reaches critical mass we read all twenty-nine again, straight through.'
Patricia T O'Conner on her love for Angela Thirkell. (£)