The story of Lawrence Durrell and his enigmatic first wife, Nancy: love, betrayal and literary endeavour set among the glittering intellectuals of 1930s London, Paris and Corfu.
Nancy Durrell was a woman famous for her silences. Anais Nin said 'I think often of Nancy's most eloquent silences, Nancy talking with her fingers, her hair, her cheeks, a wonderful gift. Music again.' As the first wife Lawrence Durrell, author of The Alexandria Quartet, it is perhaps surprising that she is an unknown entity, a constant presence in the biographies of Durrell and others in the Bloomsbury set, yet always a shadowy figure, beautiful and enigmatic.
But who was the woman who was with Durrell during the most important years of his development as a writer Joanna Hodgkin decides to retrace her mother's fascinating story: the escape from her toxic and mysterious family; the years in bohemian literary London and Paris in the 1930s; marriage to Durrell and their discovery of the 'Eden' of pre-war Corfu and her desperate struggle to survive in Palestine alone with a small child as the British Mandate collapsed. Amateurs in Eden is a fascinating biography of a literary marriage and of an unusual woman struggling to live an independent life.
Frank and captivating . . . rich in charm and pathos . . . Hodgkin has done both Nancy and herself proud with this fresh portrait of a marriage we thought we knew, and of a woman we have never known well enough - Sunday Times - Miranda Seymour
It's a cracking story, and Hodgkin is a meticulous researcher - Observer - Olivia Laing
The animating spirit that pulses through this joint biography is to be thoroughly applauded - Literary Review - D.J Taylor
This is not just a memoir of her mother. This is the history of a literary wife. On both counts, Hodgkin succeeds beautifully . . . Her story is not a footnote; it is absolutely central - Independent
A truly fascinating account of one of those many women, the wives and the girlfriends and the sisters of famous literary men, who have lived a twilight existence in the shadows of the historical canon. A particularly rich and honest account - Scotland on Sunday
An enjoyable, revisionist account of a bohemian marriage - Guardian - Blake Morrison