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.theguardian - 30 days ago

Monica Jones, Philip Larkin and Me by John Sutherland review – a poisonous love

In thrall to Larkin’s genius: racism, drink and despair in a generous account of a tortured relationship over four decadesPoor Monica Jones. She would have liked to marry Philip Larkin but he kept her at arm’s length (or the 100 miles between Hull and Leicester) for more than 30 years. An academic, she loved her subject, English literature, but failed to publish any books and, as a result, was never promoted by her university department. She dressed with flair and flamboyance but was dismissed by Larkin’s friends as “a grim old bag”, “a beast”, “frigid, drab and hysterical”, and appeared, thinly disguised, as the appalling Margaret Peel (her own middle name was Beale) in Kingsley Amis’s debut novel Lucky Jim. “I dread the whole of the rest of my life,” she wrote in her 30s, and death has done little to rescue her reputation.Enter, like a shining knight, John Sutherland, who was taught by Jones as an undergraduate, became a good friend and drinking partner, and rightly believes she has been hard done by. “In crucial ways Monica made me,” he says, and his book pays generous tribute to the woman who kick-started his prolific academic career. As the first scholar to see Jones’s letters to Larkin (all 54 boxes of them in the Bodleian Library), he has also learned things about her he didn’t know, some of them hard to take. Continue reading...


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