Lettice Cooper (1897–1994), was an English writer. She was born in Eccles, Lancashire on 3 September 1897. She began to write stories when she was seven, and studied Classics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford graduating in 1918. She returned home after Oxford to work for her family’s engineering firm and wrote her first novel, The Lighted Room in 1925. She spent a year as associate editor at Time and Tide and during the Second World War worked for the Ministry of Food’s public relations division. Between 1947 and 1957 she was fiction reviewer for the Yorkshire Post. She was one of the founders of the Writers’ Action Group along with Brigid Brophy, Maureen Duffy, Francis King and Michael Levy and received an OBE for her work in achieving Public Lending Rights. In 1987 at the age of ninety she was awarded the Freedom of the City of Leeds. She never married and died on 24 July 1994 in Coltishall, Norfolk.
The New House (1936)
The Lighted Room (1925)
National Provincial (1938)
Biography of Robert Louis Stevenson (1947)
Black Bethlehem (1947)
Blackberry’s Kitten (1960)
Tea on Sunday (1973)
Snow and Roses (1976)
Desirable Residence (1980)
Unusual Behaviour (1986)
Une Journee avec Rhoda (1994)
THE NEW HOUSE — Buy it here
The New House was given by Lettice Cooper to her nephew’s wife – Jilly Cooper, who writes in her new Persephone Preface: ‘More than forty years later, I still remember how enraptured I was by The New House, staying up all night to finish it.’ Jilly Cooper continues: ‘For, like Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson, whose biographies Lettice later wrote, she was above all a storyteller, not of action-packed sagas, but of adventures of the heart. All that outwardly happens in The New House is over one long day a family move from a large imposing secluded house with beautiful gardens to a small one overlooking a housing estate. But all the characters and their relationships with each other are so lovingly portrayed that one cares passionately what happens even to the unpleasant ones.
The New House reminds me of my favourite author Chekhov, who so influenced Lettice’s generation of writers. Like him, she had perfect social pitch and could draw an arriviste developer as convincingly as a steely Southern social butterfly. Like him she seldom judged her characters and found humour and pathos in every situation. Part of her genius as a writer is to realise that humans are never consistent, that “hard people will suddenly be tender and gentle people hurt you.” Every time the reader becomes outraged at the monstrous egotism of a character, the kaleidoscope shifts and they do something spontaneously, unexpectedly kind. “I never meant to be a selfish woman,” cries Natalie in a rare and touching moment of self-knowledge, but an adoring husband had made it so easy. “I wish he’d shaken me and told me not to be a little fool.”
Like Chekhov, Lettice is also wonderful on lost love. Both the heroine Rhoda and her maiden Aunt Ellen turn down men whom they love and who love them because they put duty first and are not prepared to abandon their dominating mothers. But before either of them can adjust their haloes, Lettice (or Rhoda) points out: “You lived to be good not happy… It was better to forego your own wishes and enjoy the rarefied happiness from being on the side of the angels.”
Jealousy is also brilliantly depicted. Thus we see Rhoda frantic to escape her mother’s clutches yet unable to hide her resentment that maiden Aunt Ellen, during the move, is suddenly better at calming and looking after Natalie than Rhoda is. While Natalie, having totally enslaved Rhoda, is unable to hide her jealousy that an old school friend, who writes to wish Rhoda luck on the morning of the move, may be loved by Rhoda more than herself.
The New House does not date, and reads as freshly today because above all it is about the shifting balance of power within any family. In our twenty-first century, the grand old house would probably be saved as a listed building and the NIMBYs would be out protesting against anything being built in its place. Unlike them, but like Rhoda, Lettice was a true socialist, who although sad to leave a large, beautiful home, felt her conscience eased because it seemed right that such places should be knocked down to make way for lots of little houses for the poor. ’
PUBLISHER: PERSEPHONE BOOKS
PUBLICATION DATE: 22nd March 2004
NATIONAL PROVINCIAL – Buy it here
When she steps off the London train at Leeds (known in the novel as Aire) Mary Welburn is returning to the world of her childhood. But while she attempts to settle back into her family, Mary strikes up new relationships and learns how the North, in 1938, is reacting to a confused and threatening world.
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury reader
PUBLICATION DATE: 7th November 2012
SNOW and ROSES – Buy it here.
Flora is a young Oxford lecturer, whose love affair with a married man has ended in tragedy. She faces a bleak, empty world. Following an ill-fated flight to a villa in Tuscany, and the collapse of her warm friendship with Lalage, an Oxford colleague, Flora is close to breakdown. She is rescued by her understanding family and by her return to Oxford, where she finds release from her own emotional problems in those of her most brilliant student, Nan, who seems about to sacrifice her career on the alter of revolutionary politics. Lettice Cooper explores and illuminates the varied contrasts of generations, classes and beliefs, and is equally absorbing in the smaller world of university rivalries and gossip, or the hot-house jealousies and intrigues in an Italian villa. Above all, this book illuminates the personality of a young woman at a crisis in her life.
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Reader
PUBLICATION DATE: 7th November 2012
GUNPOWDER, TREASON AND PLOT — Buy it here
On the fifth of November every year, children all over England delightedly light bonfires, swish sparklers and gobble toffee apples in celebration of Bonfire Night, and the death of Guy Fawkes.But what reallyhappened on the night of the Fifth of November, 1605, when the plot to blow up King and Parliament was discovered? And what led up to so extreme a course of action? It is a story of intrigue, unsurpassed even in a century when intrigues were commonplace, and of religious zeal reaching fanatical proportions. Lettice Cooper has told the true story of this whole fantastic episode – an episode which has captured and held the imagination of English people for hundreds of years. She has added nothing but her brilliant writing. The story was there – in abundance.
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Reader
PUBLICATION DATE: 2nd November 2012
BLACK BETHLEHEM — Buy it here.
Three long short stories, two of which are backgrounded by the war and the now familiar bombing of London, and introduce a great deal of war motivated episode and debate.
The first concerns wounded, discharged and returning war hero, Alan Marriot, who can find no political certainty, no personal stability; the second, Lucy Meadows, who takes in a refugee woman who is always to remain an alien, who rewards her generosity by seducing Lucy’s longstanding lover; and the third tells of a small boy’s tension and hatred after the arrival of a new baby.
Published: PFD Books, 2nd May 2013
CURA ROMANA – Buy it here
Award-winning writer Leslie Kenton is renowned for her expertise in all matters relating to health and well-being. Now, with The Cura Romana Weightloss Plan, she shares the secrets of this revolutionary diet and guides you through its fast, effective three-step programme…
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PUBLISHER: Bantam Press
PUBLICATION DATE: January 2011