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Rachel Billington Biography

(1942– ), All Things Nice, The Big Dipper, Lilacs Out of the Dead Land, Cock Robin, Beautiful

woman relationship novels daughter

British novelist, born in Oxford, educated at London University. She is the daughter of Francis Pakenham, the 7th Earl of Longford, and Elizabeth, Countess of Longford, and the sister of Antonia Fraser. Her protagonists are almost invariably drawn from the gentry. Her first two novels, All Things Nice (1969) and The Big Dipper (1970), are comedies of manners, but beneath the caustic wit, there is a more sombre, even violent, tendency which is apparent in Lilacs Out of the Dead Land (1971) and developed in successive works. Obsessive passion is the predominant theme in Cock Robin (1972), Beautiful (1974), and A Painted Devil (1975), all of which demonstrate her elegant prose style and her skilful use of dialogue. A Woman's Age (1979), more epic in scale, centres on the life of its female protagonist from a difficult past to a promising political career. Occasion of Sin (1982) is Billington's reworking of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. In Loving Attitudes (1988), she explored the relationship between a middle-aged woman and the daughter she had given up for adoption over twenty years before. Bodily Harm (1992), a psychologically acute, discomforting love story, is alternately narrated by an aggressor and his victim, each damaged by childhood events. As well as novels, which also include The Garish Day (1985), Theo and Matilda (1990), The Family Year (1992), and Magic and Fate (1996), Billington has also written children's books, plays for television, and The Great Umbilical (1994), concerning the relationship between mothers and daughters.

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