Siblings and the write stuff

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The Independent Online
Alexander Theroux's attack on his brother may be unusually ungracious, but it is only the latest in a long line of sibling rivalries to have emerged from the hothouse world of literature, writes Marianne Macdonald.

One of the best publicised is that between the sisters Margaret Drabble and Antonia Byatt. For years Byatt was overshadowed by her younger sibling. Both won scholarships to Cambridge to read English. Byatt got a First but Drabble trumped her with a starred First.

Later, as Byatt stuck to her literary and academic career, Drabble's first novel established her reputation as one of the most celebrated authors of the Sixties. But it was Byatt who went on to win the Booker Prize with Possession, and who is now better known to the public.

In a recent interview Drabble admitted to detecting a certain coolness in her sister about her success. "It used to upset me that she never said to me `Well done, I'm glad your novel's been accepted', or anything like that. And I suppose I still feel that." Similar awkwardness has been detected in the contrasting literary sphere in which the Collins sisters made their mark.

While Joan rose to fame as an actress, her younger sister Jackie, having failed to follow her to stardom, carved out a lucrative career with explicit best-sellers such as The World is Full of Married Men, The Stud, and Hollywood Wives.

But when Joan turned her own hand to bestsellers, rumours spread that Jackie was less than happy at this invasion of her territory.

The most engaging literary fracas remains the relationship between Gerald Durrell, zoologist and author of the amusing account of his childhood, My Family and Other Animals, and his elder brother Lawrence, author of literary tomes including the Alexandria Quartet. Lawrence, or Larry as readers knew him in My Family, was said to be less than happy at Gerald's descriptions of him opening matchboxes at their Corfu villa, only to be attacked by scorpions, accounts of his pompous conversations, and mishaps at the hands of numerous pets.

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