86. Rebecca West - The Return of the Soldier


In this episode of Backlisted John and Andy welcome back Alice Jolly, novelist, playwright and memoirist, who has won both the Royal Society of Literature’s V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize for short stories and the PEN/ Ackerley Prize for non-fiction for Dead Babies & Seaside Towns, and whose latest book, Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile, was John’s favourite novel of last year. Alice first appeared on Backlisted in February 2016 to discuss Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire. She is joined by Amanda Craig, writer and critic and author of seven novels including A Vicious Circle and most recently the brilliant state of the nation novel, The Lie of the Land, published by Little Brown in 2017 and serialised that year as a Radio 4 ‘Book at Bedtime’. The book that Alice & Amanda have chosen to here talk about is The Return of the Soldier, the first novel by Rebecca West, first published in 1918, when she was 24. The discussion beforehand includes John’s passionate admiration for Julia Blackburn’s latest book Time Song: In Search of Doggerland and Andy’s report back on finally tracking down a copy of cult author Alexander Baron’s second Harryboy Boas novel, Strip Jack Naked.

Books mentioned:

Rebecca West - The Return of the Soldier, The Fountain Overflows, This Real Night, Cousin Rosamund, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, The Meaning of Treason, St Augustine
Alice Jolly - Dead Babies & Seaside Towns, Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile
Amanda Craig - A Vicious Circle, The Lie of the Land
Julian Blackburn - Time Song: In Search of Doggerland
Alexander Baron - Strip Jack Naked
Chris Sullivan - Rebel, Rebel: The Mavericks that Made the Modern World
Sarah Moss - Ghost Wall
Tara Westover - Educated
Sofka Zinovieff - Putney
Sayaka Murata - Convenience Store Woman
Lissa Evans - Old Baggage
Alan Bennett - Smut: Two Unseemly Stories
Alan Hollinghurst - The Swimming Pool Library
Tim Krabbé - The Rider
L.P. Hartley - The Go-Between
J.L. Carr - A Month in the Country
Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace

Other links:

Rebecca West interviewed by Ludovic Kennedy in 1976
Rebecca West interviewed by Marina Warner in The Paris Review (1983)
The Return of the Soldier movie (1982) on YouTube
Andy Miller & Alex Preston at the Faversham Literary Festival - 24 Feb 2019
Rachel Malik’s blog on class in The Return of the Soldier