Magazine article The Spectator

A Seamless Whole

Magazine article The Spectator

A Seamless Whole

Article excerpt

An Almost English Life:

Literary, and not so Literary, Recollections by Miriam Gross Short Books, £14.99, pp. 200, ISBN 9781780720999 This short memoir deserves a longer review than this, encompassing, as it does, migration, intellectual excellence, a successful professional life, two marriages, children and an honesty and contentment not usually found in close proximity.

Miriam Gross (nee May), with a Jewish legal background (both her parents, who left Nazi Germany in 1933, were lawyers), was brought up in Palestine, then under the British Mandate, where she stayed until 1947. In Jerusalem she felt little affinity with other exiles, only with the landscape. From the start, she seems to have been clear-sighted to an unusual degree. Unfazed by her unmaternal mother, she drew close to her

father, from whom she derived an understanding

of men which was to be useful in

both her public and emotional future lives.

Unusually attractive, speaking little English,

she does not appear to have suffered

from loneliness or alienation when she finally

moved to England, although in London

her most cherished companion was a dog.

At Dartington Hall, and later at Oxford, she

studied her contemporaries with little comprehension.

She was ready to fall in love, and

indeed much inclined to do so, perhaps as a

result of her upbringing. Her attachments

are recounted without sentimentality. But

what mainly fascinated her was the range

of wiles and tactics displayed by other girls.

No slouch herself, she was essentially an

observer.

As is usually the case, she discovered that

working life could be much more instructive

than any formal education. …

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