Monday, 20 October 2014

Chetan Bhagat: Not the best but the bestselling writer

He admits he may not be in the same league as the literary greats of India when it comes to fiction, but he has revamped the concept of 'bestsellers'. This, says novelist Chetan Bhagat, is because his stories are written for Indians.

The 40-year-old was interacting with the alumni and students of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi in the first 'Distinguished Alumni Lecture' series here Saturday evening.

During the hour-long lecture on 'From Institute to Bollywood', the author of the bestseller "Five Point Someone" that was adapted into the blockbuster movie "Three Idiots", spoke about how by listening to his inner self he embarked on a journey that changed the course of his life.

"When my first novel came in 2004, there was a different literary landscape in India. It was the time when many young people were learning to speak in English for better job prospects," said Bhagat.

"I know that I am not the best writer in India, but I am the bestselling writer because I write for the people of my country. I write in the language they understand and converse with them through this," he added.

The entire conversation turned out to be a light-hearted evening for the audience, which applauded, giggled and laughed at Bhagat's impeccable sense of humour. The audience could associate with Bhagat's nostalgic references to the culture, the girls' attitude towards IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) boys and the daring things he did during his stint at the institute.

He advised them to be more adaptive in life because "brilliance is not just enough to survive in this world".

"You have to realise that adapting is winning. Being smarter or intelligent is not enough in this world. How many times do we see a brilliant man heading a company? Then we look at them and wonder: 'Our fundas (basics) were better than his, but why aren't we there?' So, be more than what you are," said the author.

Bhagat, in his many interviews, has maintained that he isn't writing to win literary prizes but is using writing as a tool to teach English and make people read books written in simple English.

Even his latest novel "Half Girlfriend" is the love story of a non-English speaking Bihari boy and a Delhi girl. Through this 'language divide', he is not just narrating a tale, but reaching out to mofussil India that aspires to "speak flawless English" to find societal acceptance.

Read more >>>

Friday, 17 October 2014

How Stoical Was Seneca?

In AD 65, the elderly philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca was forced to commit suicide on the orders of the emperor Nero. He had once been the emperor’s tutor and adviser, though he had withdrawn into retirement when the true character of Nero’s reign became clear, and he had recently become rather too closely involved with an unsuccessful coup (quite how closely, we shall never know). He must have been expecting the knock on the door.
The knock came from the captain of a troop of praetorian guardsmen who had stationed themselves around Seneca’s house, just outside Rome. Ironically, the captain himself was also involved in the planned coup, but had decided to follow the emperor’s orders in order to save his own skin (“he was now adding to the crimes he had conspired to avenge,” as the Roman historian Tacitus tersely put it). After a brief interrogation, Seneca was told to end his own life, which he did only with great difficulty. He severed his arteries, but he was so old and emaciated that the blood hardly escaped; so he asked for the hemlock that he had stashed away for just that purpose, but that had little effect either. He died only when his slaves carried him into a hot bath and he suffocated in the steam.
While all this was going on, he had been offering words of encouragement to the friends who happened to be dining with him when the praetorians arrived (he was bequeathing to them, he claimed, the only thing he had left, and the best: “the image of his own life,”imago vitae suae); and he had been dictating to his secretaries, for future circulation, some last philosophical thoughts. His final words were to offer a libation to “Jupiter the Liberator.”
So Tacitus—probably the most acute analyst ever of the autocratic rule of the Roman emperors—described the scene in his Annales, half a century or so later; he was no doubt relying on some hard evidence (a few modern critics have even suggested an eyewitness account), but inevitably recasting it in his own terms. One of Tacitus’s favorite themes in the Annales is death and its corruption; he repeatedly stresses the idea that autocracy disrupted not only the natural rhythms of life but the processes of dying too. People died for the wrong reasons, in the wrong places, and in the wrong order. Children killed their parents. Funeral pyres were prepared before the victim had even breathed his last. In fact, Tacitus opens his narrative of Nero’s reign with the bleak, and significant, phrase: “The first death under the new Emperor….” The suicide of Seneca, as Tacitus tells it, can be seen as a prime example of how even dying had been corrupted.
That is partly because, try as he might, applying all the usually reliable methods, death almost defeated Seneca. For a philosopher who had devoted so much of his writing to preparations for death—as the title of James Romm’s new biography, Dying Every Day, hints—he made a very bad job of it when his own turn came. It is also because he made such a histrionic display out of the act of dying. Seneca publicly embraced Stoic philosophy, which took an uncompromising view of the importance of “virtue” in both living and dying (it was, in fact, much more uncompromising than the popular modern term “stoical”—in the attenuated sense of “stiff upper lip”—would ever suggest).
But Seneca’s death was a frankly hubristic imitation of the death of Socrates: with his last thoughts being dictated (as in Plato’s Phaedo), the attempted resort to hemlock, and a final offering to the gods (though in this case it was a libation to Jupiter, not, as in Socrates’ last words, a sacrifice to Asklepios). Even so, his death ends up no more than a very poor imitation of its model. As Emily Wilson nicely summed it up in The Death of Socrates (2007):
It is as if trying to learn about death from Socrates has made Seneca all but incapable of experiencing death for himself. The academic study of the subject has desiccated his body until it has no blood left to spill.
To be fair, over the years, not all judgments on Tacitus’s account of Seneca’s suicide have been so negative. Some admirers of the philosopher have chosen to see the death as an example of fortitude, and of tremendous philosophical courage amid the corruption of Roman imperial society. Seneca, it is argued, was a man whom Tacitus saw as one of the few potentially good influences on Nero, and who might have prevented his reign from developing as catastrophically as it did.
In his suicide, fighting against the recalcitrant frailty of his own body, he met unwaveringly the death to which he has been cruelly sentenced; and he turned it into the ultimate lesson in how to die (not for mere show was he dictating his last philosophical thoughts on his long-drawn-out deathbed, but for the true edification and education of future generations). This is presumably the message of Rubens’s famous painting, which shows Seneca standing almost naked in his small bath, in a pose strikingly reminiscent of the suffering Jesus in many Ecce homo scenes from medieval and later art: so suggesting triumph over death, not defeat by it.
Yet as both Romm and Wilson in The Greatest Empire insist, it is impossible not to see some ambivalence, at the very least, in Tacitus’s version of Seneca’s last hours, and in his evaluation of the man more generally. Romm focuses in particular on that phraseimago vitae suae (“the image of his own life”), which was to be, as Tacitus put it, Seneca’s bequest to his followers. Roland Mayer has argued that we should detect here a reference to the kind of imago that was displayed in elite Roman houses: one of those series of ancestor portraits intended to spur on future generations to imitate the achievements of their great predecessors. That is very likely one resonance of the phrase: Seneca was offering a positive example to be followed in the future. But, as Romm rightly observes, “Imago is a multilayered word,” and like “image” in English, it also suggests “illusion,” “phantom,” or “false seeming.”
Read more >>>

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness

Alice Munro is widely recognized as being among the greatest living authors writing in English, and her latest volume of stories, just now being released in paperback, inspires, as the title suggests, almost Too Much Happiness—her thirteenth book in a nearly sixty-year career. The collection reads with the headlong rush of both a thriller and a romance. In ten stories, told with equal power and precision from male and female perspectives, Munro explores how people do and don’t move on with their lives after losing what they thought they couldn’t live without.

A master of psychological fiction, Munro champions the value and complexity of the lives of outwardly ordinary people. She examines the conflicts protagonists experience as they strive to reconcile their need for self-realization—which will differentiate them from those around them—with their desire for approval from peers. Her stories reveal that paradoxically, even community insiders are outsiders, and she frequently uses doppelgängers and “multigängers” to depict the psychological multiplicity characters may feel within themselves, or the connections that exist between different characters in a story.

Above all, Munro’s contribution to literature is her visceral sensibility. She translates the sensation of being alive onto the page. Having lived all her life in Canada, she writes compassionately but unsentimentally about characters who sometimes live in Vancouver or elsewhere, but are most often culturally grounded in small towns in Southwestern Ontario, or “Sowesto.” Yet they are so authentic and universally similar to her readers—regardless of where we hail from—that they seem to live and breathe through us, and we through them. We stand revealed as Munro unmasks ambivalent feelings between parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers, siblings, best friends and neighbors. And when these perfectly nice characters behave in ways that shock us, we shudder with self-recognition that leads to insight—and then relief. Munro’s stories show that we are all connected—even through our experiences of moral failure and isolation, which can lead to revelation and growth.

Psychological and physical violence, often enacted in domestic settings, are recurring features of Munro’s canon. The author examines both the pathology of patriarchal society, and the unpredictable ways that people, nature, and our best-made plans can cataclysmically erupt; reconfiguring the landscape of our lives before we can comprehend what has happened. In one story, “Wenlock Edge,” Munro intimately introduces readers to a sexual predator; and in another, “Child’s Play,” the memory of an incident of murderous bullying, among nice girls, torments and shapes the bullies for the rest of their lives.

In “Dimensions,” the opening story, when Munro pushes a character’s obsession with control over the edge, readers encounter major themes and techniques of this collection and in the author’s work as a whole. A father, Lloyd, murders his daughter and two sons in a vengeful rage against his wife, Doree. In Munro’s stories, constant tension exists between those who hold power—whether material or psychological—and those who need or want more of it; and when a less powerful character gains strength, she often pays a brutal price. Such is the fate of Doree, the protagonist.

Frequently in Munro’s stories, as in life, signs of trouble-to-come show up early, but protagonists deny them, or don’t act soon enough to avert disaster. Like Doree, they participate in bringing upon themselves the calamities that lead to their journeys toward self-discovery.

Doree, a 16-year-old high school student, is first befriended by Lloyd, a hospital “orderly”—Munro loves wordplay—during her visits to her ailing mother, whose condition is said to be “serious but not dangerous.” Lloyd is admired by patients for his jokiness and “authoritative” demeanor.

Although he is only slightly younger than Doree’s mother, he flatters the girl in the elevator, telling her that she is a “flower in the desert,” and steals a kiss. When Doree’s mother dies suddenly, she chooses to move in with Lloyd, rather than stay with any of her mother’s friends. No mention is made of her having friends her own age.

After she becomes pregnant at seventeen, they marry, and Lloyd moves her cross-country, isolating her in a rural location “they have picked from a name on the map: Mildmay.” By nineteen, Doree has three young children.

Doree’s circumstances recall the young Munro’s. When the author was entering adolescence and developing as a writer in the 1940’s, her mother developed Parkinson’s disease, and Munro became her caretaker. Her route out of her life in rural Wingham, Ontario, was a two-year scholarship to the University of Western Ontario, where she published her first story at nineteen in 1950. As her scholarship was expiring, in 1951, she married fellow student Jim Munro, and by twenty-six, she was the mother of two daughters, with another to follow. One of her babies died soon after birth, and a theme that runs through Munro’s stories is that of children in danger or getting lost or dying.

Read more >>>

Friday, 10 October 2014

Form follows function - Neel Mukherjee

Neel Mukherjee was born in 1970 in Kolkata (then Calcutta), West Bengal, three years after the State witnessed a peasant uprising in Naxalbari, which attracted many urban youth in its wake. The intervening years form the setting of Neel’s second novel, “The Lives of Others”, which has been shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2014 (to be announced on October 14).
While the wait between the announcements of the longlist and the shortlist was a tense one, Neel is now at ease (even though bookies have him down as one of the favourites). With a number of events lined up, Neel doesn’t have the luxury to think Booker, “but it’s good that one doesn’t have the luxury to think Booker”, the London-based writer contends. “I think it’s just great to be on the shortlist because I’m only two books old. I am thrilled, delighted and I am shell-shocked. It’s like I’ve been hit in the back of my head and I’m still seeing the stars.”
“The Lives of Others” is, at a very simple level, the story of the private torment of the once-prosperous Ghoshes, written against the social ferment of the years between 1967-70.
The novel unfolds in episodes that take the point of view of each of these characters, as well as a series of letters from Supratik, the eldest grandson of the family, who has left unannounced to join the Naxal movement. The effect of this narrative movement is one of an edifice being built and chipped away at simultaneously.
“I start with theory rather than people,” he says of his craft. “I don’t like novels which have no theoretical or philosophical underpinning. I hate the contemporary novel where people just sit and talk to each other about their relationships. I feel it’s a free-floating form that will get swept away very soon.”
Neel sought to explode from within the form of the realist novel which, at its inception and for much of its evolution, has held up a mirror to the bourgeoisie, “to make the world either comprehensible or palatable to them.”
The theoretical core of this novel came from thinking about the writings of Georg Lukacs and Hayden White on the function of forms, as also the words of the writer M John Harrison – “start with a form, then ask what it's afraid of”. “I thought it could become the core of a writer’s project – asking of a genre what it is hiding, what it is colluding in, what it is not doing,” Neel explains. “I thought if one has to write a novel to lay bare the ideological foundations of the bourgeois realist novel, one has to do it dialectically. So therefore I thought it wouldn’t do just to write the story of a family, I would have to have an antithetical ideology.” The Naxal movement fell firmly into this design.
Although the writer grew up in close proximity to the period he describes, Naxalism was no more than a distant murmur, “a background noise” for him. It was something he grew to be interested in for the purpose of this novel.
Read more >>>

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Theodor Fontane:Effi Briest

Effi Briest (1895) is the greatest work of Prussian realism and certainly one of the best tragic novels of the 19th century. The story is simple enough and hardly unique: Geert von Innstetten, an ambitious nobleman and civil servant on the brink of middle age, makes an uncontroversial marriage to Effi von Briest, the 17-year-old daughter of a former flame. Innstetten takes her back to the town in Pomerania from which he runs the local administration. A daughter, Annie, is born, but Innstetten is keen to get on, and leaves his young wife on her own where she falls prey to a womaniser, Major von Crampas.
Effi never loves Crampas, and Innstetten is none the wiser. He is transferred to Berlin and the affair is forgotten until he discovers a packet of Crampas's letters to his wife. He challenges Crampas to a duel and kills him. Innstetten takes charge of his daughter and banishes his wife. Effi's health declines in her despair. Reconciled to her parents, she dies.
Theodor Fontane based the story on a case he had read about in the newspapers: Armand Léon von Ardenne had killed Emil Hartwich, a local magistrate who had been sleeping with the former's wife, Elisabeth von Plotho, whose family had been Slavic princes even before the Christians came to Brandenburg.
When I first picked up Effi Briest more than a dozen years ago I was interested in its description of Prussian manners at a time when the local nobles or Junkers were coming to terms with the new German Reich. Fontane was the supreme apologist for Prussian values and his heroes - and villains - are often drawn from the ranks of its modest but warlike squirearchy. Innstetten is another Prussian type: the altruistic bureaucrat. As an old lady from Hamburg once told me: "We hated the Prussians, but such a thing as a corrupt official would have been unthinkable then."
It is not just the nobility that Fontane portrays. Kessin is Swinemünde, where Fontane himself grew up, and the novelist presents an affectionate tableau of provincial life in a Prussian seaside town. The old apothecary, Gieshübler, is a portrait of Fontane's father.
Of course I was struck then - indeed moved to tears - by Effi's fate. Effi is simply too young, while Innstetten is too old, too busy ("I have no choice, I am in government service") and too trusting. Once he learns of the affair he is also too unbending. When Effi succeeds in seeing her daughter she is heartbroken to find she has become her father's girl. For the first and last time Effi curses them all, but in the end she is too much a part of the system herself: his code of honour is also hers, and it was she who broke the rules.
Rereading the novel I was even more struck by how cleverly Fontane presents this view. There is really no way out for Innstetten or Effi. Both blindly follow their destinies. Innstetten finds the letters through an unfortunate accident. Had he kept quiet he might have been able to forget the affair, which had ended six years before. He confesses that he loves his wife, and had no cause to suspect her. However, by confiding in his colleague Wüllersdorf he has started the process of making her infidelity public and laying himself open to ridicule. Wüllersdorf argues vainly for a statute of limitations: surely there is a time after which a duel is no longer necessary? Innstetten disagrees: "A tyrannical social something or other" dictates his course of action. "One is not just a solitary person but part of a whole." Innstetten has only one path - "Es muss sein". He must kill the seducer or die himself.
Effi herself had not wanted to yield to the cynical Crampas. A ghost, a Chinese servant who may or may not have died as a result of an illicit affair, appears at her moments of fear, egging her on to seek solace in the other; a metaphor for lust?
Innstetten is sympathetic. He is not a hypocrite. Fontane says he is "kind and good, but certainly no lover". In his final conversation with Wüllersdorf he is shown to be a man who can see no way out. He is a slave to his career; but the honours he receives bring him no happiness at all in a life of utter loneliness.
Prussian noble society also decides Effi's fate: she is not fit to bring up a child. She comes to accept the verdict as she prepares for death. At her side she has a faithful servant and fellow sinner, Roswitha - significantly a Thuringian Catholic - and a dog, Rollo, who is destined to pine away on her grave. Her parents have softened. They have begun to blame themselves: was she not just too young?
Fontane has been called the Prussian Zola, but the comparison is unhelpful. There is no thesis to his novels, such as that which imbues Zola's history of the Rougon-Macquart family, and almost all the figures are notable for their humanity. Even Crampas is not a stock villain: he reads Heine, produces plays and accepts his death with equanimity.
Read more >>>

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The vertiginous life and art of Tenessee Williams

Though she may have been a solipsistic spinster who confined herself to the Puritan isolation of Amherst, Massachusetts, the poet Emily Dickinson clearly understood the vagaries of her nation’s obsession with celebrity. Consider:
Fame is a bee.
It has a song —
It has a sting —
Ah, too, it has a wing.
American literary history is full of dark narratives about the writerlyTotentanz with “the bitch-goddess success” (to borrow a phrase from the philosopher William James). Gaze upon F Scott Fitzgerald, celebrated as the voice of his generation at the age of 23, who, less than a decade later, considered himself a washed-up dipsomaniac when his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, failed to gain commercial traction. Then there were Ernest Hemingway’s final years, when the pressure of living up to his über-macho public image – and a sense of encroaching creative sterility – fuelled the prodigious boozing and depression that ended in his suicide.
Add to this honour roll of great American alcoholic writers such disparate talents as Herman Melville, Hart Crane, Dorothy Parker, John Dos Passos, John Berryman, John Cheever, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Carver and Richard Yates and you must begin to consider why the mercantile, “only the winner goes to dinner” ethos of American life can take such a high toll on so many of its creative giants.
One of the underlying truisms of literary biography is that the messier the personal narrative, the more interesting the read, which is one of many reasons why John Lahr’s massive, compulsive study of the vertiginous life and art of Tennessee Williams is such a page-turner. The playwright who redefined the American dramatic vernacular – and whose seminal work speaks volumes about the darker recesses of the human condition and the aching loneliness that haunts our existence – was also plagued by demons and excesses.
Williams’s life was a confluence of familial horrors, outcast isolation, sexual adventurism, ne plus ultra substance abuse, manic episodes and (amid all the dark woods within which he dwelled) a towering compassion and humanity that found such expressive voice in his extraordinary achievements as a playwright.
But what lifts Lahr’s book into the canon of biographical masterpieces (not a word I bandy about daily) is that, in chronicling the prurient excesses of Williams’s existence, he also explores, with critical and psychological acuity, the way in which great art emerged from such a profoundly unsettled and disquieting life.
His family was a testament to Southern Gothic dysfunction: a brutalising, absent father who called him “Miss Nancy” because of his perceived femininity; a mother who was a faded belle of the ball and
an Oedipal nightmare; a fragile, troubled sister who was unfairly institutionalised and then, monstrously, lobotomised with their mother’s approval. “What a dark and bewildering thing it is, this family group,” Williams wrote to a friend. “I can’t give them any help.”
Like so many of the progeny of damaged parental goods, he spent all his life searching for love and simultaneously engaging in the sort of emotional self-sabotage that ensured his ongoing personal chaos. The man who penned that now immortal line, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” certainly knew a thing or two about transient sex with frequently violent undertones. Meanwhile, he spent debilitating time in the mid-1930s as a clerk in the International Shoe Company, a soul-destroying job that hisroman-à-clef personage Tom inhabits in the first of his many benchmark plays, The Glass Menagerie.
The theatre is one of the most vibrant and destructive neighbourhoods of the performing arts. Lahr’s biography is awash with wonderfully skewed backstage anecdotes from Williams’s career. The actress who first embodied his mother onstage – Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie – was the personification of such self-doubt and disorientation that she didn’t truly register the bravos that greeted her first-night performance. On the subject of the 23-year-old Marlon Brando, who made theatrical history as the brutal yet vulnerable Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Lahr notes: “Like Stanley, he was a ruthless
man-child with reservoirs of tenderness and violence.”
Lahr leads us through the psychotic complexities of Williams’s lover of the era, a frequently explosive and physically aggressive gentleman named Pancho Rodriguez, just as he shows us how this darkly belligerent relationship informed Streetcar. Citing Elia Kazan, who directed many of Williams’s great works (and later named names during the McCarthy witch-hunt), Lahr makes it clear that if Pancho was the aesthetically ignorant and violent Stanley, Williams was the embodiment of his best-known personage, Blanche DuBois: a morass of vulnerability and old-school pride.
Beyond the backstage gossip (Lahr’s account of the crazed Tallulah Bankhead in one of Williams’s many 1960s theatrical disasters, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, is a wild tale of theatrical egos in decline), what emerges from this critical biography is the absolute importance of Williams’s footprint on the landscape of 20th-century theatre.
After The Night of the Iguana in 1961, he never knew commercial success as a dramatist for the remaining 22 years of his life. These final two decades, in which Williams did some of his most intriguing, experimental work, make for unnerving reading: the demonic episodes, the excessive dependency on pharmaceuticals and booze, the ever-encroaching death wish that was fulfilled in February 1983 in his New York residence, the très louche Hotel Elysée, which Williams always referred to as the “Easy Lay”. When the cops broke into his room, they found 13 bottles of prescription pills on a table near his corpse. Fame is a bee . . . 
Read more >>>

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Edna O'Brien: 'I had to grow old before they'd give me credit'

Where are the leaders who can inspire us? That's what Edna O'Brien would like to know. "The over-riding self-importance! I despair!" says the great Irish writer and social commentator, railing against modern politicians. "If you compare how they speak now with how Churchill and Disraeli spoke … language was used more carefully, more pertinently. Now everything is so …." She ponders what to say, a literary grande dame about to receive a lifetime achievement award at the age of 83 for the power and precision of her words. Having found the right one, she speaks slowly, in a low voice that shudders with disgust. "So … ordinary!"

That is the last word anyone would use to describe this remarkable novelist, short-story writer, poet, playwright and force of nature, whose books were banned and burnt in Ireland in the Sixties but became hits everywhere else. She swung through London having dalliances with Richard Burton, Marlon Brando and Robert Mitchum, and Sean Connery once failed to stop her taking LSD. Paul McCartney sang her children to sleep.

She survived to become a serious public figure and a bit of a legend: Edna O'Brien the brilliant, forthright redhead standing up for the right of women everywhere to think and feel and say and write about it whatever they wanted to. After 20 works of fiction she has been hailed by Philip Roth as "the most gifted woman now writing in English". And O'Brien has just become the second winner of the Charleston-Chichester Award for a Lifetime's Excellence in Short Fiction. She is to receive it the morning after our meeting, at the Small Wonders literary festival at Charleston, East Sussex, spiritual home of the Bloomsbury group. The previous winner was William Trevor. "Ireland is creeping its way into Sussex," she says. "Or maybe marching."

O'Brien was a panellist on the first Question Time, in 1979. Having sparred with politicians all her working life, weren't they always shallow, vain attention-seekers? "The sense of self-promotion is far more evident now, but any cosmic or spiritual sense is absent. That is to do with the vulgarisation of our society."

The prospect of another war in Iraq disturbs her, having marched against the last one. "I met wonderful people. My feet were better then. I can't understand why Tony Blair doesn't say, 'I did wrong.' I think it would be his spiritual salvation." Again, the language disturbs her. "Shock and awe? How dare they use those words. That is for a musical on Broadway with chorus girls." Again, a pause before a tremulous pay-off. "Oh, they're bastards!"
Edna O'Brien is certainly entertaining company, even at the dying of the day in a quiet Sussex garden, where we take tea as the birds settle into the trees around us. She is tiny and elegant, in a long striped skirt and matching scarf. She runs her finger along her lips as she talks, like a question mark. Her low, deliberate voice is weirdly reminiscent of an Irish Margaret Thatcher, a comparison she would surely hate. Tired after being driven from her home in Knightsbridge, she is revived by a cup of Earl Grey.

Read more >>>