Elizabeth Jane Howard: 1923-2014
Elizabeth Jane Howard, who died on the 2nd of January at 90, was known for her precise delineation of English domesticity during WWII, and secondarily for her middle career marriage to Kingsley Amis whose loud reputation completely swamped hers. Hilary Mantel said last week that Howard had been unreasonably sidelined as a writer of small domestic dramas – after all, even Hamlet is about families.
The twentieth century was alternatively liberating and repressive for women: suffrage achieved, access to education allowed, professions opened (a very tiny bit); one could get there, but one couldn't get ahead.
I thought I'd re-read the Cazalet books, four published in the 1990s, and one published last year; the Calgary Public Library, one of the largest in the country, has just two of the series, not the new one and many versions in large print, indicating that someone has deemed Elizabeth Jane Howard as reading for elderly ladies. How can one break into such an obdurate mindset? And why, I ask, in 2014 should we have to?