Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lucilla Andrews

Regular readers may recall that, in August, Mrs GOB and I attended a lunch in Edinburgh. The lunch was given by the UK Romantic Novelists' Association, and its purpose was to honour the lifetime achievements of three senior members of the Association: Lucilla Andrews, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Mary Stewart.

Lucilla Andrews was unable to attend the lunch because she was in hospital, and now, sadly, she has died, at the age of 86.

Jenny Haddon, Chairman of the RNA, has sent me a link to an fascinating obituary of Lucilla in the Guardian. It is written by Julia Langdon, a long-standing friend of Lucilla's daughter, Victoria Crichton, who predeceased her mother.

Lucilla Andrews was the leading exponent of the 'hospital romance', a genre which is at best sniggered at but which has provided vast numbers of readers with a great deal of harmless pleasure and interest, often at difficult times in their own lives. And for my part I regard that as an achievement to be proud of.

The hospital background was provided largely by Lucilla's World War II experience as a nurse at St Thomas's Hospital, London, during the Blitz. This she also described in her autobiographical memoir, No Time for Romance. I learn from the Guardian obituary that No time for Romance was the primary source for the background of Ian McEwan's literary novel Atonement, and was declared as such in his acknowledgements. (Atonement was shortlisted for the Booker.)

I must say that Julia Langdon's obituary is an inspiring read, and I commend it to you. There is no sign that Lucilla was the complaining sort, but her life was far from smooth. She was sent to a boarding school at the age of three, and her own married life was a long way short of romantic expectation. But despite it all she carved out a career for herself as a writer. In addition to her memoir she published 35 novels and an academic biography of a Roman Catholic theologian, Monsignor Ronald Knox.

It was certainly a life worthy of recognition, and I know that the members of the RNA are pleased that they were able to honour Lucilla Andrews formally while she was still alive.

5 comments:

Andrew O'Hara said...

A grand lady, indeed. When the nurses' home was hit by a V-2 she had the presence of mind to grab her eyelash curlers and book notes. I like that.

Terrianne said...

As an ex nurse (albeit an australian one) i loved Ms Andrews books - her nurses were real, i'm sure i knew some of her ward sisters personally, and best of all, my mu was UK trained at much the same time, and i had a much clearer picture of what her life would haver been like.

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