Announcing our stunning batch of Penelope Fitzgerald reisssues

4th Estate is reissuing the novels and non-fiction of one of the most admired novelists of the twentieth century – Penelope Fitzgerald. The first titles to be reissued will be Innocence, Offshore, The Blue Flower, At Freddie’s and The Knox Brothers. They will be available to readers in November 2013.

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Innocence is Fitzgerald’s best-loved novel of romance in post-war Italy.

The Ridolfis are a Florentine family of long lineage and little money. It is 1955, and the family, like its decrepit villa and farm, has seen better days. Only eighteen-year-old Chiara shows anything like vitality.

Chiara has set her heart on Salvatore, a young and brilliant doctor who resolved long ago to be emotionally dependent on no one. Faced with this, she calls on her English girlfriend Barney to help her make the impossible match…

 

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Offshore, a novel of loneliness and connecting, is set among the houseboat community of the Thames. On Battersea Reach, a mixed bag of the temporarily lost and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the tide of the Thames.

There is good-natured Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by chance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, an ex-navy man whose boat, much like its owner, dominates the Reach. Then there is Nenna, an abandoned wife and mother of two young girls running wild on the muddy foreshore, whose domestic predicament, as it deepens, will draw this disparate community together.

 

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The Blue Flower. The year is 1794 and Fritz, passionate, idealistic and brilliant, is seeking his father’s permission to announce his engagement to his heart’s desire: twelve-year-old Sophie. His astounded family and friends are amused and disturbed by his betrothal. What can he be thinking?

Tracing the dramatic early years of the young German who was to become the great romantic poet and philosopher Novalis, The Blue Flower is a masterpiece of invention, evoking the past with a reality that we can almost feel.

 

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At Freddie’s is an entertaining tale of a chaotic stage school and its singular headmistress.

It is the 1960s, in London’s West End, and Freddie is the formidable proprietress of the Temple Stage School. Of unknown age and provenance, Freddie is a skirt-swathed enigma – a woman who by sheer force of character and single-minded thrust has turned herself and her school into a national institution. Anyone who is anyone must know Freddie.

 

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The Knox Brothers is Penelope Fitzgerald’s biography of her remarkable family.

In this, only her second book, Penelope Fitzgerald turned her novelist’s gaze on the quite extraordinary lives of her father and his three brothers. A masterly work of biography, within which we see Penelope Fitzgerald exercising her pen magnificently before she began her novel-writing career.

Edmund Knox, her father, was one of the most successful editors of Punch. Dillwyn, a Cambridge Greek scholar, was the first to crack the Nazi’s message decoding system, Enigma, and in so doing, is estimated to have shortened the Second World War by six months. Wilfred became an Anglo-Catholic priest and an active welfare worker in the East End of London. Ronald, the best known of the four during his lifetime, was Roman Catholic chaplain to Oxford University’s student body, preacher, wit, scholar, crime-writer and translator of the Bible.

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. One of the first female students at Oxford University, she studied at Somerville College and after graduating she went on to work at the BBC during World War II. She later worked at Italia Conti and in a Suffolk bookshop. Her literary career began in 1975, at the age of 58, with the publication of a biography of Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, followed two years later by The Knox Brothers, a joint biography of her father (Edmund Knox) and uncles.

In 1977 she published her first novel, The Golden Child. Over the next five years Fitzgerald published five further novels, including The Bookshop which was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1978.  The following year her novel Offshore won the prize. Two of her later novels, The Beginning of Spring (1988) and The Gate of Angels (1990), were also shortlisted for the Booker prize. Her final novel, The Blue Flower (1995) was selected as ‘Book of the Year’ nineteen times and won America’s National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1999 Fitzgerald was awarded the Golden Pen Award by English Pen for ‘a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature’. She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.

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