Hermione Lee

Hermione Lee on Antonia White

The Lost Traveller

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The Sugar House

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Beyond the Glass

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When Frost in May, Antonia White’s remarkable novel about her childhood in a London convent school, was published in 1933 it immediately became a minor classic. The ambience of the school – its physical atmosphere, its knowing, authoritarian, calculated disciplines, its bias against the will and the imagination clashing with the aristocratic, cosmopolitan, romantic temperaments of the girls – and the presentation of all this entirely through the eyes of Nanda Grey, a nine-year-old convert when she enters in 1908 and a thirteen-year-old rebel when she leaves resulted, as Elizabeth Bowen wrote in 1948, in ‘something intense, sensuous, troubling, semi-miraculous – a work of art.’

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