Thie life of this remarkable woman, Penelope Hughes-Hallett , reveals to us that life is [usually] long, and that if one is determined s/he can acquire one's heart's desire with a little work. She was heading off to school in 1943 when she realised that her widowed mother really needed her to stay at home to help with the younger children.
She was to remember all her life the disappointment with which she unpacked the trunk which had been already waiting in the hall for the start of the new term.
Her life for the next three decades was essentially a private one. As young women, she and her sister Miranda were society beauties, albeit of slender means, attending deb dances in ball gowns improvised by their mother from curtain material. Still hoping for a literary career, Penelope took a job as a secretary at Faber & Faber, where TS Eliot was an editorial director...
There she met a young man, married and had three children. Thirty years later (in her mid-forties), she began to piece together that education that had been cut short, taught at her local college and found her voice as a writer. This obituary has the nicest words for both her work and her own life:
Her prose was elegant, her humour sympathetic. On its publication in 2000, The Immortal Dinner was widely praised for its inventive structure and warm humour, as well as for the breadth of vision it brought to the cultural life of the period [19th century London life].
A delightful conversationalist, full of droll anecdotes and lucid comments, in each capacity she made new friends, and won respect and affection in equal measure. Unfailingly sensitive to others' needs, her wit and sweetness of manner gilded, without blunting, her determination and intelligence.
How nice is that! Look for her titles -- they seem well worth the effort!