Angela Lambert

Prolific journalist, writer and novelist who drew on her own life experience for much of her inspiration


Angela Maria Helps, writer and journalist: born Beckenham, Kent 14 April 1940; married 1962 Martin Lambert (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1967) (one daughter with Stephen Vizinczey); died London 26 September 2007.

Angela Lambert was a writer, feminist, mother, grandmother and friend to a wide and disparate circle of people. An insightful and prolific journalist, she was also a hugely accomplished author with seven novels and three historical books to her name.

She was born Angela Maria Helps, a year into the Second World War, a period that she was to write about in her 1989 book 1939: the last season of peace. She was of German extraction herself, her mother having been born there, and she spoke the language and relished researching The Lost Life of Eva Braun, her final book, published in 2006.

Angela was bright and intellectual from the outset, something that did not sit comfortably within the family in which she grew up. She regarded her father, a civil servant, as an "imperious" husband to her "deferential" mother. She was sent away to boarding school – an experience that resurfaced in her second novel No Talking After Lights (1990) – and later recalled "the memory of being dumped by unfeeling parents". Nevertheless it was at school, when barely a teenager, that she set her heart upon becoming a writer.

Only when Angela reached St Hilda's College, Oxford to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics, did she begin to savour the liberation of her age. She regarded her date of birth as "an extraordinary piece of luck, since it meant that I was one of the first wave of women to benefit from the Pill, feminism and equal (if still far from perfect) opportunities".

The boisterous Oxford that she encountered swirled with ideas, drama, art and politics. She was part of a gregarious Bohemian set that included my cousin Peter Snow, through whom I was later to come to know her. Angela even then was awash with ideas.

She met her husband, Martin Lambert, in her final year at Oxford and they married in 1962. Five years later he left her, rendering her the single mother of four-year-old Carolyn, and 18-month-old Johnnie. This was in the only period in her life when she did not live to some extent by the pen. She had taken a job as private secretary to Lord Longford when he became a cabinet minister in 1964, and stayed with him until his resignation in 1967. She represented a thread of order in Longford's chaotic political and charitable life. Through him she met many of the great political, social and cultural figures of the day, some of whom were to provide wonderful material for her later writing life.

Tempted in part by the money, and in part by the prospect of becoming one of the first female television reporters, she joined ITN in 1972. She was the only woman in a line-up of 18 male reporters. She found television news, and "writing to pictures" an exasperating compression of her talents, although she enjoyed the camaraderie of Thames Television, to which she moved in 1977.

Throughout, this time the writer in her was bursting to get out. In 1988, she finally gave in to the muse, and joined Andreas Whittam Smith's newly launched Independent. He, too, had been in her set at Oxford. This was the beginning of her most prolific period of journalism. She went on to work for the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. She wrote columns, features, and extraordinarily textured interviews. One memorable victim was Nicholas van Hoogstraten, described then as "one of Britain's most notorious landlords". As so often in her work, she was able to lull him into a false sense of security, and he spoke far too frankly. She later said she thought he was one of the most evil men she had ever met.

Lambert was in her early forties when she published her first book, Unquiet Souls: the Indian summer of the British aristocracy (1984). It was an original work that explored a rarely discussed group of late-Victorian intellectuals and aristocrats, "the Souls" – Asquith, Balfour, Curzon and others – who intersected with each other in both their London and country houses between 1890 and 1914. The book was shortlisted for that year's Whitbread Prize.

As with much of her fiction, her first novel Love Among the Single Classes (1989), utilised much material derived from her own experience. For in truth she was never at peace with her life as a single mother. She talked of regretting "my busy-ness, my poverty, and my infatuations". One such obsession was to bring her a third child when, in 1971, she met Stephen Vizinczey, the Hungarian author of the best-seller In Praise of Older Women (1965). Marianne Vizinczey was the happy outcome of an otherwise nigh-broken heart.

Her other novels include The Constant Mistress (1994) and A Rather English Marriage (1992), which Andrew Davies adapted into a BBC drama starring Tom Courtenay, Albert Finney and Joanna Lumley.

Lambeth's adult years were dogged by ill health. Her frequently life-threatening bouts with illness centred on portal hypertension which she first came down with in 1979 and which recurred for the rest of her life. Sickness and illness play a considerable part in many of her novels.

Although it is her books, and her writing by which the wider world will remember Angela Lambert, I shall remember her as a constant and indulgent friend, both in London and in France, between which she lived for the last two decades of her life with her resourceful partner, the television director Tony Price. If she feared that her singularity and remorseless writing career had deprived her own children, she never let it stint her devotion to her seven grandchildren who were each her pride and joy. A rare and stimulating force, she died far too young, leaving too many books unwritten.

Jon Snow

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicKate Bush set to re-enter album charts after first conerts in 35 years
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter
arts + ents
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Merger and Acquisition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN TAWe are looking to recrui...

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis