Elizabeth Jane Howard

After a career spanning more than 60 years, the writer Elizabeth Jane Howard,  has died at aged 90. Jane (as she was always called) achieved a triumph in her 70s with The Cazalet Chronicle, a highly praised tetralogy of novels set in the England of 1937-47. The first two books, The Light Years (1990) and Marking Time (1991), became an acclaimed BBC TV series, The Cazalets, in 2001. Her 2002 autobiography, Slipstream, revealed how closely the Cazalet family was modeled on her own and that the roots of her novel. In November 2013, a fifth Cazalet novel, All Change, was published, shortly after a long-running dramatization of the original quartet on BBC Radio 4.

Jane had an 18-year relationship with novelist Kingsley Amis, which made for fascinating public fodder. They married in 1965 and divorced in 1980 (it was her third marriage).

Jane once admitted that writing was the most “frightening” thing she did, and that she did not enjoy it. “I find it much too anxious a business,” she said. She once tried to give it up altogether. But she couldn’t. “When you write something which comes off, it’s a feeling like no other,” she said. “It’s like being visited by something outside yourself.”

• Elizabeth Jane Howard, writer, born 26 March 1923; died 2 January 2014

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We know our letters just fine, and we know our numbers to a certain point, but books were always the realm of four-eyed poindexters with bowler hats and cravats. That’s why it pleases us so that America’s proud illiterates are finally stepping up and pushing back against the crushing tide of education that threatens to swallow us all into its gaping maw of checked facts. Champions of the Ignorantiat will not like it here.
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