Christopher J. Knight’s Penelope Fitzgerald and the Consolation of Fiction is a study of the British author Penelope Fitzgerald (1916 – 2000), attending to her nine novels, especially as viewed through the lens both of "late style" (she published her first novel, The Golden Child, at age sixty) and, in her words, of "consolation, that is, for doubts and fears as well as for naked human loss." As in Shakespeare’s late, religiously inflected, romances, the two concerns coincide; and Fitzgerald’s ostensible comedies are marked by a clear experience of the tragic and the palpable sense of a world that verges on the edge of indifference to human loss. Yet Fitzgerald, her late age pessimism notwithstanding, seeks (with the aid of her own religious understandings), in each of her novels, to wrestle meaning, consolation and even comedy from circumstances not noticeably propitious. Or as she herself memorably spoke of her own "deepest convictions": "I can only say that however close I’ve come, by this time, to nothingness, I have remained true to my deepest convictions—I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as a comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?" The recipient of Britain’s Booker Prize and America’s National Book Critics Circle Award, Penelope Fitzgerald’s reputation as a novelist, and author more generally, has grown, since her death, significantly, to the point that she is now widely judged one of Britain’s finest writers, comparable in worth to the likes of Jane Austen, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Introduction: "Music at the Close
Chapter One: The Golden Child and the Anxious Relation to Detective Fiction
Chapter Two: The Second Saddest Story: Despair, Belief, and Moral Perseverance in The Bookshop
Chapter Three: Offshore: "Between the Hither and the Farther Shore"
Chapter Four: Human Voices: Voice, Truth and Human Fortitude
Chapter Five: At Freddie’s, or "All My Pretty Ones"
Chapter Six: Innocence: An Allegory of Fall
Chapter Seven: The Beginning of Spring: Resisting "Irreligious Triviality"
Chapter Eight: The Gate of Angels and the Challenge to Modern Religious Belief
Chapter Nine: The Blue Flower and A World Elsewhere
Conclusion: "The Gift of Death"