Reading group: Farewell Leicester Square by Betty Miller
Betty Miller wrote Farewell Leicester Square, in 1935 but her publisher, Victor Gollancz, ‘turned the book down flat,’ wrote Neal Ascherson in The New York Review of Books. ‘It seems most likely that he saw it as terrifyingly provocative, not only an attack on the solid English assimilation of his own family but a tactless outburst against the English at precisely the moment, two years after Hitler’s assumption of power, when their tolerance and hospitality were most needed.’
In the novel Alec Berman escapes from his restrictive Jewish family in Brighton, and although he has a successful career as a film-maker and marries the very English Catherine, he always feels a ‘Dago: Jew: Outsider.’ ‘Yet,’ continued Neal Ascherson, ‘the rejection is not really the refusal of a snobbish Gentile world fully to accept him. The rejecting force comes from within himself.’
‘A thought-provoking insight into anti-semitism between the wars,’ wrote the Guardian, ‘not the violent prejudice of Mosley’s fascists, but the discreet discrimination of the bourgeoisie.’
Nicola Beauman is a journalist, fiction reviewer and biographer. Her books number A Very Great Profession: The Woman’s Novel 1914 – 39; Cynthia Asquith; Morgan: a biography of EM Forster; and The Other Elizabeth Taylor. Nicola Beauman founded Persephone Books in 1998 to reprint (mostly) women writers, (mostly) of the inter-war period portrayed in A Very Great Profession, and now has one hundred and twenty-five titles in print.