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White, Antonia

novel school convent plath

(British, 1899–1980)

Antonia White (real name, Eirene Botting) was born in London and educated in a convent school, from which she was expelled. Later she worked as a journalist. Her first novel, Frost in May (1933), is strongly autobiographical, telling the story of 9-year-old Nanda, who is sent to a convent school and begins to write a novel about some spectacular sinners who will repent at the end—but the unfinished manuscript is discovered. The vicissitudes of convent school life are powerfully conveyed. Clara Batchelor, the heroine of White's next novel, The Lost Traveller (1950), is a thinly-veiled Nanda, now 15, coming to terms with adolescence. Her story is continued in The Sugar House (1952) and Beyond the Glass (1954), in the last of which Clara is admitted to Nazareth hospital, suffering from insanity, as did White herself. It is a harrowing novel, and begs comparison with Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. She published a volume of stories, Strangers, in 1954.

Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Janet Frame  SA

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