I’m going to be writing about it more fully in the next issue of Shiny New Books, but (since today is publication day for this book) I thought I had to bring A Curious Friendship by Anna Thomasson to your attention. Especially since I saw her give a lovely talk about it at the Oxford Literary Festival yesterday, to a gratifyingly large number of people.
Why gratifyingly large? Because the people A Curious Friendship is about aren’t really household names. It’s a biography of the friendship between Edith Olivier and Rex Whistler. Now, a lot of my blog readers will know who they are, and may have read Olivier’s glorious 1927 novel The Love-Child (which I wrote about in my DPhil at length) – but perhaps won’t know much else.
Thomasson’s book takes us from their meeting, when Olivier was in her early 50s and grieving her beloved sister, and Whistler was a 19 year old art student newly arrived in a Bright Young Thing set. Their friendship would last two decades, and encompass many achievements and emotions. And A Curious Friendship is a really, really excellent book. Whether or not you’re interested in them, you can’t help but be impressed by the compelling way Thomasson tells their story, and the way she brings two quite different trajectories into one whole. As she said in the talk, it is neither about Olivier nor about Whistler, but about a third entity: the two of them together.
As I say, my full review will be out soon – but don’t wait til then; go and grab a copy. It’s a real delight, and an emotionally involving one (I cried a bit, not gonna lie). My one hope now is that Thomasson will be allowed (and willing) to edit a collection of their letters. Please.