"There was never any distance between Penelope and the page," writes Terence Dooley, introducing the distinguished writer's letters to her children, lovers, friends, publishers and fellow writers. Indeed, raw emotions, from gaiety to anxiety, shine from these pages. Except for the hole in the middle of the collection (her family's houseboat sunk and with it those letters detailing her child-bearing years), they show the dramatic arc of her life, through early success, a career as literary editor, destitution, and upwards again.
They most interestingly detail the quotidian trials and tribulations of interacting with both people and words. "My whole life is spent apologising to someone or other, I'm afraid," she writes. Elsewhere, she "felt depressed at being discarded by yet another American publisher"; and once she felt like throwing green mayonnaise at Malcolm Bradbury.
Fitzgerald is revealed as shy, warm and tenacious, as she strove to fulfil her talent. And these letters are inspiration to move from her life to her literature.