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Bates, H(erbert) E(rnest)

love set larkin sisters

(British, 1905–74)

Bates published novels, plays, short stories, critical essays, and autobiographical works. He frequently writes about the misfortunes and fortunes of love. In Bates's first novel, The Two Sisters (1926), sisters Jenny and Tessa realize they are in love with the same man. Recently adapted for cinema, The Feast of July (1954) is set amid the countryside of nineteenth-century England, where Bella Ford, jilted by her unscrupulous lover, plans a revenge that ends in catastrophic violence. Much of Bates's fiction is set against the back-drop of the Second World War, exploring its effects upon ordinary lives. Triple Echo (1971) is the story of a poignant love-affair between a country woman and a young deserter from the army. Bates was recruited to the RAF to write morale-boosting short stories (as in How Sleep the Brave, 1943) under the pseudonym of Flying Officer X. But his fiction rose above its propagandist purpose, and is amongst the best written about flying in the Second World War. Fair Stood the Wind for France (1944) tells of a British air crew brought down in occupied France.

In later life, Bates wrote a series of gentle comedies based on the Larkin family, and set in 1950s rural England. The first is The Darling Buds of May (1958), popularized through television. The Larkin novels reflect Bates's love of English country life and a humorous affection for his characters.

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