Next week, on Thursday, 20 November, it will be my pleasure to speak to Lyndall Gordon at the Book Lounge launch of her latest memoir, Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter.
“Lyndall Gordon grew up in Cape Town where she studied history and English, then nineteenth-century American literature at Columbia in New York. In 1973 she came to England through the Rhodes Trust. For many years she was a tutor and lecturer in English at Oxford where she is now Senior Research Fellow at St Hilda’s College.
Virago has published her six biographies and two memoirs. Lyndall is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and member of PEN. She is married to Professor of Cellular Pathology, Siamon Gordon; they live in Oxford and have two grown-up daughters.”
The first time I encountered Lyndall Gordon’s work was when her biography Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family’s Feuds was sent to me for for reviewing in 2010:
“In Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family’s Feuds, Lyndall Gordon considers the two unassailable facts of Emily Dickinson’s life: the family feud over the affair Emily’s brother, Austin Dickinson, had with Mabel Loomis Todd, and the poet’s letters and poems about her unnamed sickness. In the process Gordon debunks the many myths created around the unique woman who spent most of her time in her own home, writing, gardening and baking prize-winning bread for her family.
Through a meticulous reading of letters, court evidence, publishers’ papers, medical prescriptions and other archival records, as well as most importantly, the lines of her poems, Gordon distils the essence of Emily Dickinson and allows her to emerge in a completely different light. Not as an eccentric, disappointed, white-clad spinster, but a woman of genius who lived fully and loved passionately, while choosing a seemingly quiet ‘Existence’ – one she insisted on spelling with a capital E.”
For me, the review was the beginning of an enlightening journey. Gordon’s remarkable books arrived in my life when I most needed them. They sustained me through periods of doubt and gave me strength to continue on my own literary path.
For my review of Divided Lives see LitNet.
“The people Gordon portrays in her biographies glow with their inner lives, and our appreciation of their work also catches fire.”
For Lyndall Gordon’s other events in South Africa see Blake Friedmann.