Hilary Mantel

Journeys Into the Interior

A Life of One's Own

By Joanna Field

Virago 256pp £4.50 paper order from our bookshop

An Experiment in Leisure

By Joanna Field

Virago 266pp £4.50 paper order from our bookshop

Sometimes it seems that the real division between people has nothing to do with talent, wealth or beauty. For some people, life’s hard, and for some it’s easy; there’s not much logic attached to the division, and one half of humanity certainly doesn’t understand the pleasures and pains of the other. Joanna Field quotes Anne in Crome Yellow – ‘One enjoys the pleasant things, avoids the nasty ones. There’s nothing more to be said.’ She herself is of the contrary, self-analytical persuasion, and these two books, first published in the 1930s, constitute an enquiry into her own nature.

It is an earnest, honest nature, without, it seems, the sauce of arrogance or the spice of humour. Through her own diaries and doodlings, we meet the author as a young working psychologist in London. At 26, she has a sense that real life is passing her by; that important things are happening, but always in the next room. She undertakes ‘mental training schemes’ and blames her lack of willpower when they fail to bring results. She goes to conferences about the lot of the poor, and in one of her pockets carries a scrap of paper with a quotation from Virginia Woolf. And though she says that she hates ‘dowdy, arty women,’ one somehow imagines this pocket; it must belong to a garment like the Woolfian cardigan that Edith Hope wears in Hotel du Lac. A Life of One’s Own is a record of seven years self-observation. What are the fa cts of my life, she asks; what will make me happy? Even the facts, she finds, shift according to the way she observes them. Her intelligence has been trained in a way which blinkers her; it has shut her off from a world of direct sensory experience, and prevented her, quite literally, from knowing her own mind. A sort of free association in writing gives her some clues; important things are going on, but not in the next room. They are going on below the surface of her conscious mind.

Royal Shakespeare Company


Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • In all seriousness: good for them. Our bulbous award gets a bad rap every year; delighted for ER to give something else a go.,
    • Don't me ,
    • RT : Never got round to posting this - my piece on biog/memoir of wonderful in latest issue of ,
    • To celebrate Paul Beatty winning the Booker, here's our review of The Sellout, to read for free: ,
    • Thomas Hardy's phrenologist tells him he will 'lead to no good' in a new book about his life in London ,
    • John Knox said that crowning a woman was akin to putting ‘a saddle upon the back of an unruly cow’. Tell that to Catherine de'Medici...,
    • RT : I 💕💕 the Pulpit article in September's about rereading books at different times of life.,