Furrowed Middlebrow,Angela Thirkell,Jane Austen,Anthony Trollope,Margery Sharp

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Ursula Marguerite Dorothea Orange was born in Simla in 1909, the daughter of the Director General of Education in India, Sir Hugh Orange. But when she was four the family returned to England. She was later ‘finished’ in Paris, and then went up to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 1928. It was there that she and Tim Tindall met. They won a substantial sum of money on a horse, enough to provide the couple with the financial independence to marry, which they did in 1934.

Ursula Orange’s first novel, Begin Again, was published with success in 1936, followed by To Sea in a Sieve in 1937. In 1938 her daughter, the writer Gillian Tindall, was born, and the next year the war changed their lives completely. Their London home was badly damaged and, as her husband left for the army, Ursula settled in the country with Gillian, where she had ample opportunity to observe the comic, occasionally tragic, effects of evacuation: the subject of her biggest success, Tom Tiddler’s Ground (1941). Three more novels followed, continuing to deal with the indirect effects of war: conflicts of attitude, class and the generations, wherever disparate characters are thrown together.

The end of the war saw the family reunited and in 1947 the birth of her son Nicholas. But Ursula Orange’s literary career foundered, and the years that followed saw her succumb to severe depression and periods of hospital treatment. In 1955 she died aged 46.

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“Is Florence looking after the house all right? I thought it was rather touching of her to say she would like to stay and be bombed with you. Mind you put her underneath when you’re lying down flat in an air-raid.”

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Oxford, it appeared, if it did not seem to have fitted her for any precise occupation, had at least unfitted her for a great many things.

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