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Olivia Manning Biography

(1908–80), The Wind Changes, The Doves of Venus, The Balkan Trilogy, The Great Fortune

British novelist, born in Portsmouth. She spent much of her youth in Ireland, where her first novel, The Wind Changes (1937), is set; the book explores the relationships between a young woman, her Irish Republican lover, and the middleaged English writer who fascinates them both, and displays the interest in political themes she was later to develop in her most famous work. She studied art in Portsmouth and moved to London in her early twenties, where she was employed for a time as a furniture painter—a period described in her autobiographical novel The Doves of Venus (1955), which also contains a portrait of her friend Stevie Smith. She married R. D. Smith, a British Council lecturer, on the eve of the Second World War, and accompanied him to Bucharest and later to Greece, Egypt, and Jerusalem, experiences which were to form the basis of The Balkan Trilogy (The Great Fortune, 1960; The Spoilt City, 1962; Friends and Heroes, 1965) and The Levant Trilogy (The Danger Tree, 1977; The Battle Lost and Won, 1978; and The Sum of Things, 1980). The novels powerfully evoke the vicissitudes of life in wartime and give a vivid sense of place and period. Manning wrote several other novels, including Artist Amongst the Missing (1949), set in Cairo; School for Love (1951), set in a Jerusalem boarding house; A Different Face (1953), about a schoolmaster in Portsmouth; The Play Room (1969), also set in Portsmouth; and The Rain Forest (1974), set on an imaginary North African island. She also published two volumes of short stories, Growing Up (1948) and A Romantic Hero (1966); a travel book about Ireland, The Dreaming Shore (1950); and a biographical study of Stanley in Africa, The Remarkable Expedition (1947). The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy were televised in 1987 under the overall title of Fortunes of War.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Madras House to Harriet Martineau Biography