Jennifer Dawson Biography
(1929–2000), The Ha-Ha, The Bell Jar, Fowler's Snare, The Cold Country
British novelist, born in South London. Her experiences as a social worker in a mental hospital in the late 1950s provided the background to much of her fiction, most notably in her first extraordinary Kafkaesque novel, The Ha-Ha (1961). Like Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, it chronicles with harrowing precision a young woman's struggle with mental illness. Many of her novels explore the extremes, and the mundanities, of madness while offering passionate, often savage, indictments of a callous society. Dawson's further novels include Fowler's Snare (1963), The Cold Country (1965), Strawberry Boy (1976), A Field of Scarlet Poppies (1979), and a volume of short stories, Hospital Wedding (1978). A ten-year silence was broken with the publication of The Upstairs People (1988), an accomplished atmospheric exploration of family life in the 1930s, interwoven with her customary themes of madness. This was followed in 1989 by a sharp, satirical look at Oxford life, Judasland.
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