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Monica Jones, Philip Larkin and Me: Her Life and Long Loves

John Sutherland

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Biography: literary

The story of Philip Larkin's long-term partner Monica Jones based on her never-before-seen letters to the poet.

'A brilliant biography - John Sutherland has brought Monica Jones to life as she deserves.' Claire Tomalin

'I couldn't put it down. Vivid and penetrating, it's a brilliant portrait of a confounding, complex woman.' Cressida Connolly

Monica Jones was Philip Larkin's partner for more than four decades, and was arguably the most important woman in his life. She was cruelly immortalised as Margaret Peel in Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim and widely vilified for destroying Larkin's diaries and works in progress after his death. She was opinionated and outspoken, widely disliked by his friends and Philip himself was routinely unfaithful to her. But Monica Jones was also a brilliant academic and an inspiring teacher in her own right. She wrote more than 2,000 letters to Larkin, and he in turn poured out his heart to her.

In this revealing biography John Sutherland explores the question: who was the real Monica? The calm and collected friend and teacher? The witty conversationalist and inspirational lecturer? Or the private Monica, writing desperate, sometimes furious, occasionally libellous, drunken letters to the only man, to the absent man, whom she could love? Was Monica's life - one of total sacrifice to a great poet - worthwhile? Through his careful reading of Monica's never-before-seen letters, and his own recollections, John Sutherland shows us a new side to Larkin's story, and allows Monica to finally step out from behind the poet's shadow.

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John Sutherland

John Sutherland is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and a visiting professor at the California Institute of Technology. He has published 20 books, edited 30 more and written many articles on a variety of publications. His most recent books are The Boy Who Loved Books: A Memoir (2007) and How to Read a Novel: A User's Guide (2006). He also writes a weekly column for the Guardian, and is a former Chairman of the Booker Prize.

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