She was like the best of her characters

The roll-call of those she has either dealt with or befriended since reads like an essential guide to twentieth-century western culture: John Berger, Henry Kissinger, John Osborne, Paul Robeson, Bertrand Russell and Kenneth Tynan. Dramatist Arnold Wesker, still a friend, remembers her from the late ’50s as ‘stunningly beautiful; like everyone else, I was captivated by her. Part of her attraction was, of course, that she was about 15 years older and a prize-winning novelist, and I, a novice to literary life, could learn from her. She was a good cook and gave wonderfully cosy dinner parties where we picked food from an assortment of plates and sat cross-legged eating it. She was like the best of her characters: concerned about friends, hugely intelligent, a no-nonsense person. She was impatient with humbug and pretentiousness. If you were guilty of neither of these you were welcomed like family.’


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