Thursday, 27 August 2009


There are intersting similarities between the subject of the last blog, Storm Jameson, and the author of another title we launch in October, Penelope Gilliatt and A State of Change respectively. For one thing, both are now far less known than their considerable talents deserve; for another Gilliatt, like Jameson, was a keen analyst of politics and society, and wove these observations into her remarkable writing. Born to parents raised in the world of the Newcastle shipping trade, she developed and maintained a strong left-wing perspective on life, and was one of the founding members of the anti Hydrogen Bomb Commitee of 100.

A State of Change is set in London during the period between 1949 and the late 1960's, and examines - as Ali Smith points our in her superb and inspiring foreword -
post-war health, rebirth and art...
and is
very much a critique of words and what they mean, and of Britishness in the 1960's...
Its main character is - with interesting prescience - a young Polish immigrant, Kakia Grabowska, who finds a London
full of closed circles and bitterness about income tax
and who attracts the attentions of two very different suitors as she explores and reacts to the radically different world in which she hopes to find a less harsh and cynical life than she had endured as a member of a persecuted race in wartime Warsaw.

One of the truly remarkable things about Gilliatt is the range of her talents. Not only did she write brilliantly structured and compelling fiction (Ali Smith compares her writing to that of Muriel Spark, DH Lawrence and Ivy Compton Burnett) but was an accomplished pianist, a renowned cinema critic (for The Observer, among other journals) and an award-winning screenplay writer (for Sunday, Bloody Sunday).

It would be a great cultural loss if this fine novelist and exceptionally talented individual was chiefly remembered for having once been married to John Osborne.

I hope you enjoy her book.


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