Being Nixon

Being Nixon – A Man Divided by Evan Thomas (2015) Sentimentality – which friend and foe agreed Nixon had in spades – was probably the trait that betrayed him.  The Peter Sellers of politicians, Nixon (9 January 1913 – 22 April 1994) never got comfortable with his own skin, so he posed as – machismo, family-man, kindly, bold, psycho, sucker and reclusive seer, etc., those personas he schmaltzily thought would play with the silent majority, or make him feel better.  In this very balanced and readable book, Mr. Thomas gets fairly close to the enigma of ‘Tricky Dick‘ without vituperation or high-falootin’ prose. Nixon’s life is…

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The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson

'The Price of Salt" by Claire Morgan (Patricia Highsmith), made as the film "Carol".

The Crime Writer is an imagined episode in the life of the novelist, Patricia Highsmith.  Highsmith spent time in Bridge Cottage in the village of Earl Soham, Suffolk, but she probably didn’t kill anyone while she was there, which Pat, in Dawson’s novel, does. When asked her opinion of Agatha Christie, Pat says, “‘The only thing Agatha Christie did that interests me is to go missing for a few days.  Fake her own death….That’s the closest she’s come to conjuring up a real crime in her life.”  And, as Christie’s missing days were imagined in the film “Agatha,” so Dawson imagines an life-changing…

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Must You Go? (Antonia Fraser)

Nymphaea Black Princess Water Lily

One half of the TVC team considers published diaries and collections of letters to be a lazy form of memoir.  This review is written by that half.  In the opinion of this half, plodding through a (probably) heavily edited and unsynthesised lot of journal entries or epistles is an unedifying and disjointed experience.  And so it is with “Must You Go?“, Lady Antonia Fraser’s annotated diary of her time with the late Harold Pinter – who, as a playwright was master of the notorious, enigmatic pause.  Pinter was also an actor and political activist, particularly in the causes of the Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia…

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My History: A Memoir of Growing Up

Dragon School, Oxford. Not my alma mater.

(by Lady Antonia Fraser) It would be unfair for me to compare Lady Antonia Fraser’s  first volume of memoirs with that of her cousin, Ferdinand Mount because in many aspects  Fraser had the (early) life and has had the career that I wanted, whereas I felt only the vaguest envy for Mount’s connections and have never aspired to working for Margaret Thatcher. While growing up  in the hideous new lower-middle-class outer suburb of Dust in South Australia, attending Dust Primary and High Schools, I knew that I really belonged in a large nook-filled house in Oxford, attending a private school, learning Latin and Greek in preparation for Oxford, in its turn a preparation…

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Cold Cream: My Early Life & Other Mistakes

(by Ferdinand Mount) (2008) It will come as no surprise to the reader that the “cold cream” of the title is the Pond’s cold cream used as a cure-all by the writer’s mother when he was a child.  Somewhat less commonplace is the probable reason for Mrs Mount’s adherence to the unpleasant ointment – she earned a lifetime’s supply as a result of having spruiked it before her marriage – “Lady Julia Pakenham says she owes her flawless complexion to Pond’s Cold Cream”. Lady Julia, the youngest daughter of the 5th Earl of Longford KC,  married Robert Francis (“Robin”) Mount who, when at…

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