Some twenty-odd years ago, when Marghanita Laski was old, redoubtable and a regular on Radio 3’s Critics’ Forum, I occasionally coincided with her on the programme. I recall her expressing disdain for an intellectual Hungarian film on the grounds that there was nothing interesting in ‘the sexual activities of silly young people’. There was a tiny pause, during which I and the other contributors wondered where this left Romeo and Juliet and Anna Karenina. But I was especially intrigued because I happened to know that Laski herself had once written a corrosively authentic and daring novel about the goings on of a silly young wife in wartime London.
The book, out of print for sixty years, has not been in the canon of distinguished and original Laski works (The Victorian Chaise-Longue, Little Boy Lost, her non-fictional studies of religion and ecstasy), because she wrote it under a pseudonym in the Second World War. Why? The historian