A slender reputation

There are some books that you circle and dither round, knowing you’ll read it “one day”, until the possibility that the second hand supply drying up and/or the risk of prices going up too high forces you to act. Kathleen Hale’s “A slender reputation” is one of the those, but after I finally kicked myself into gear and bought a copy I was so glad I’d got there at last.

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Hale was an artist who ran away from home at 18 to join the London art scene in 1917 when it was no joke (she says matter of factly that she never went without food and drink for more than two days, but it left her with stomach ulcers and pain for the rest of her life), became best known for her Orlando the Marmalade Cat series even though she was talented in many genres, and had a companionable loving marriage with a husband who she was never naturally attuned too.

Her book is a joyful set of memories about post-first world war Bohemia (she worked for Augustus John, but was more a friend with his wife Dorelia), the satisfaction of motherhood unexpectedly and later in life, house and garden making as part of, rather than a drain from, her artistic creativity, and most of all an ongoing optimism through thick and thin.