Francis King


Morality tales

Francis King celebrates Margaret Drabble’s distinguished career and vividly recalls their first meeting


A constant delight

Francis King would like to raise a metaphorical glass to his friend Sybille Bedford on the approaching centenary of her birth

Miracles of compression

In the course of a lifetime of fiction reviewing, I have come to the conclusion that, though my colleagues are prepared doggedly to persevere with the reading of a novel from its muddled opening to its inconsequential end, they will read no more than four or five stories in a collection.


The odd couple

Some years ago now I bought from the artist Robert Buhler a pastel portrait of the composer Lennox Berkeley (reproduced above).


The witch in the machine

If one asks Albanians who is their greatest living writer, the immediate answer is Ismail Kadare, winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in 2005.


Why, oh why?

In my many years as a judge for the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography, I have been constantly surprised by the high proportion of books that deal with the subject of adoption.


Not as sweet as he seemed

There are already three biographies of E. M. Forster: P. N. Furbank’s two- volume, authorised heavyweight; Nicola Beauman’s less compendious, more engaging middleweight; and my own bantamweight, little more than an extended essay.


Short and sweet

This little book of limericks, some as hard and glittering as shards of mica but a few surprisingly pallid and limp, at once presents a puzzle: the real name of an author is no more likely to be Jeff Chaucer than the real name of the author of a play would be Billie Shakespeare.

A great novelist

In a remarkable way the trajectory of Ivy Compton-Burnett’s reputation after her death in 1967 parallels that of George Meredith’s in 1909.

Home thoughts from abroad

Paradise of Exiles, by Katie Campbell

Quite contrary

Eleven years after Jean Rhys’s death in 1979, Carole Angier published a monumental biography, a model of its kind, with 70 pages of notes and seven of bibliography.

A delicate talent

The Other Elizabeth Taylor, by Nicola Beauman


Opposites attracted

Before We Met, by Marcelle and Anthony Quinton

Culture-clash on the campus

Chicago, by Alaa al-Aswani

More nattering please

The Other Garden and Collected Stories, by Francis Wyndham

A Soho stalwart

Like Angus Wilson, Julian Maclaren-Ross immediately grabbed the attention of Forties reviewers and readers with a series of short stories…

Tangerine dreams

Francis King reviews Tessa Codrington's new book

Deep, dark truths revealed

A few nights ago I was at a dinner party at which all those present knew each other far better…

Thriving in adversity

This book takes up the story, told so memorably in his Clouds of Glory, of Bryan Magee’s early years in…

The subtle art of suggestion

Prematurely, John McGahern published his Collected Stories 14 years before his death early this year. To prepare this Selected Stories…

Dirty tricks down Mexico way

Set in 2020, this has been described as a work of ‘futuristic’ fiction. Most such fiction — Forster’s The Machine…

A brilliant autopsy on a dead regime

Although writers in languages of lesser currency suffer a cruel disadvantage when striving to establish themselves on the international scene,…

All passion still not spent

From her earliest years, one attribute dominated Bernice Rubens’s life: passion. It fuelled her impressive books, her personal relationships and…

A stranger to the truth

Anthony Burgess was someone whose accomplishment as a fibber far surpassed even that of such formidable rivals as Laurens van…

Mombasa and Zanzibar

The bitterness of the immigrant experience, the tumultuous coming of independence to a former British colony, forbidden love and miscegenation…