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

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits