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Book Review: Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee

Lee's subject was too elusive to be loved

Penelope Fitzgerald’s uncle, the priest and theologian Ronald Knox, once gave her the following piece of advice: “Biographies should be written about people you love and novels about characters you dislike.” Hermione Lee doesn’t love Fitzgerald, exactly—her subject was too elusive to be loved, at least at a distance—but she certainly admires her, and that is enough to make this a worthy monument to one of the finest English novelists of the second half of the 20th century.

Not that Fitzgerald herself felt especially English as a writer. Lee shows that…

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