Robert Tanitch’s Round-Up of Books No 4 (2019)
Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels by Janet Todd (Andre Deutsch £20). Austen’s popularity is undiminished. Her novels are regularly filmed for cinema and TV. This book is a pleasant companion and appealing mainly for the illustrations: portraits, handwriting, buildings, landscapes and caricatures by Rowlandson and Gilray.
Sanditon by Jane Austen (Oxford University Press £4.99). The novel was left unfinished at the time of her death in 1817 (she was only 41). It has been of interest to lots of authors who have wanted to complete the story. Now that it has had a television series it will get a wider audience and even more conclusions.
Charles Dickens: The Man, The Novels, The Victorian Age by Lucinda Dickens Hawksley (Andre Deutsch £20). Dickens (1812-1870) died young. He was only 58. No English writer’s death has been mourned so much. Queen Victoria insisted he be buried in Westminster Abbey. Millions paid their respects. The volume is also a pleasantly illustrated companion You could have some fun trying to decipher Dickens’s handwriting, an editor’s nightmare.
The Collected Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (Oxford University Press £16.99) includes the Little White Bird, Anon (a play), Peter and Wendy (a film scenario for a proposed film) and Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. Peter, a cultural icon, and symbol for escapism and innocence, has remained popular with children, adults (who have never grown up) and especially Freudians who have had a field day ever since the play premiered in 1904. George du Maurier’s performance as Captain Hook sent children screaming out of the theatre. Barrie’s speech, Captain Hook at Eton, delivered to the First Hundred at Eton College in 1927, is also included.
Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy: And Other Rules to Live by David Mitchell (Guardian Faber £20) David Mitchell, comedian, author and TV presenter, writes a column for the Observer every Sunday. The wit he shows on screen is as quick as his wit on page. He is an excellent wordsmith and what he has to say about David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Brexit, Olympics, police, salad cream, etc, etc is always entertaining (Fans will be delighted that Mitchell’s performance as Shakespeare in Ben Elton’s TV series Upstart Crow will be repeated on stage in 2020.)
Liberty Faber Poetry Diary 2020 (Faber £14.99) is a celebration of Faber’s remarkable list of poets, including T S Eliot, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney, Wendy Cope, Philip Larkin, etc, etc, a poet for each week. It’s a nice present to give to a poetry lover; the only trouble is you will probably want to keep it for yourself. The illustrations are Faber dust-jackets.