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Isabel Colegate Biography

(1931– ), The Blackmailer, A Man of Power, The Great Occasion, Orlando King

war party novels shooting

British novelist, born in London; she left school at the age of 16. Her first novel, The Blackmailer (1958), dealt with the decline of the English aristocracy and the disintegration of class structures in the aftermath of the First World War, a theme to which she was to return in subsequent works, including A Man of Power (1960) and The Great Occasion (1962). Similarly, her trilogy of novels, Orlando King (1968), Orlando at the Brazen Threshold (1971), and Agatha (1973), are concerned with the nature of social change. Statues in a Garden (1964), a characteristically short and elegantly written work, portrays a group of aristocrats on the eve of the Great War, describing their effete and somewhat decadent lives with ironic humour. The Shooting Party (1981), which was also filmed, is set in 1913 and focuses on the aristocratic guests at a weekend shooting party in a large country house; its mood is underlined by one character's remark that ‘an age, perhaps a civilization, is coming to an end’. Deceits of Time (1988) has a contemporary setting but deals as much with the past as Colegate's earlier work; its central character, Catherine Hillery, a biographer, is commissioned to write the biography of a well-known politician and former First World War hero, and discovers that the truth about his past is more complex than she had imagined. Colegate's later novels include The Summer of the Royal Visit (1991), narrated by a retired schoolmaster and amateur historian, who describes the events surrounding a proposed visit to his city by Queen Victoria, and Winter Journey (1995).

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