This is a sly, darkly amusing little novel. It’s a fictional autobiography about fictional autobiographies.
Narrated by Fleur Talbot, a headstrong young writer, the story is set in 1949 but she’s looking back on it from later on in the century. She becomes secretary to Sir Quentin Oliver, a ‘crackpot’ and sort of cult leader who encourages the people in his group to write their memoirs. Fleur spices up the memoirs with a bit of fiction but at the same time, life begins to mirror the novel she’s about to have published. There are some great eccentric characters in this book and I liked the atmosphere, which suggests society is on the brink of change – rationing is on the way out, novels are becoming edgier, bomb-damaged buildings are going to be rebuilt, women can have careers rather than marrying for money. It’s interesting to think that some of the book’s content could not have been published in 1949 but was acceptable by 1981, when it was first published and then shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
It’s a clever novel and possibly some references went over my head, but it was an unusual read with some funny moments and is ideal if you want to read novels about writing and publishing.
Some time after reading this book, I stumbled across a reference to the ‘Memoir Club’ which comprised members of the Bloomsbury Group literary scene and decided that Loitering With Intent may be a spoof of it.
This edition is by Virago, 2007, with an introduction by Mark Lawson.