Furrowed Middlebrow, Rachel Ferguson, Winifred Peck, Virginia Nicholson, Kate Atkinson, Persephone, Virago

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Frances Faviell (1905-1959) was the pen name of Olivia Faviell Lucas, painter and author. She studied at the Slade School of Art in London under the aegis of Leon Underwood. In 1930 she married a Hungarian academic and travelled with him to India where she lived for some time at the ashram of Rabindranath Tagore, and visiting Nagaland. She then lived in Japan and China until having to flee from Shanghai during the Japanese invasion. She met her second husband Richard Parker in 1939 and married him in 1940.

She became a Red Cross volunteer in Chelsea during the Phoney War. Due to its proximity to the Royal Hospital and major bridges over the Thames Chelsea was one of the most heavily bombed areas of London. She and other members of the Chelsea artists’ community were often in the heart of the action, witnessing or involved in fascinating and horrific events throughout the Blitz. Her experiences of the time were later recounted in the memoir A Chelsea Concerto (1959).

After the war, in 1946, she went with her son, John, to Berlin where Richard had been posted as a senior civil servant in the post-war British Administration (the CCG). It was here that she befriended the Altmann Family, which prompted her first book The Dancing Bear (1954), a memoir of the Occupation seen through the eyes of both occupier and occupied. She later wrote three novels, A House on the Rhine (1955), Thalia (1957), and The Fledgeling (1958). These are now all available as Furrowed Middlebrow books.

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‘Take off your coat,’ said the doctor. I took it off. ‘And your dress,’ he said. ‘It’s too dangerous – the folds may catch in the debris and bring the whole thing down.’ I took off the dress. ‘Fine,’ he said shortly. ‘It’ll have to be head first. We’ll hold your thighs. Go down and see if it’s possible to give an injection. Can you grip the torch with your teeth?’

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‘You don’t want to mind about any of this,’ said the driver, waving a hand at the grey ruins and the greyer dust. ‘In a few days you’ll be so used to it that you’ll like them. Berlin’s a grand place! I’d rather be here than anywhere else in the world, and that’s a fact.’

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‘Heartrending but irresistible.’ Rosaleen Whateley, LIVERPOOL DAILY POST

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‘You are a virgin?’

‘Yes.’

‘How dull! What’s the use of being a woman if you’re a virgin?’

‘One has to begin sometime,’ I agreed.

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‘I can’t go back. I’d rather die—I’d rather be dead.’

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