Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Cazalets and the Life and Times of Elizabeth Jane Howard

All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard – review

Alex Clark enjoys the final volume of Howard's series on the upper-class Cazalet family
Alex Clark

Thu 14 Nov 2013 09.01 GMT First published on Thu 14 Nov 2013 09.01 GMT

In the early 1980s, with several novels, including After Julius and Something in Disguise to her name, Elizabeth Jane Howard was casting around for a new fictional project. Apart from artistic considerations, she was in the process of separating from Kingsley Amis, to whom she had been married since 1965, and needed both absorption and funds. In Slipstream, her 2002 memoir, Howard describes how she had "two ideas that I found paralysing": an updating of Sense and Sensibility and a trilogy about a family that would begin in 1937 and span a decade. She invited her stepson Martin to come for a drink and talk it over; when she told him about the family saga, his response was immediate: "Do that one."

The current (and recurrent) vogue for adapting Austen notwithstanding, Amis was probably right. In 1982, the same year that the highly popular TV adaptation of Something in Disguise first aired, Howard began The Light Years, the first volume of what was to become The Cazalet Chronicles. Such was the sprawling nature of the narrative – it kept to its 10-year framework, and largely to its London and Sussex settings, but featured an ever-expanding cast – that the proposed trilogy became a quartet, published between 1990 and 1995. Now, nearly 20 years later, the 90-year-old Howard has added a fifth volume, which rejoins the upper-class Cazalet family, its inlaws and exes, its staff, associates and fellow travellers, in 1956.

Howard's original inspiration to write a wartime series had a particular impetus. "When people wrote about that time," she explained in Slipstream, "it was largely in terms of the battles fought; family life was merely a background. I thought it would be interesting to do it the other way round. England had changed so much during the war, but this hadn't been much written about." In All Change, the battles are over a decade in the past, their participants returned, their dead mourned and the seismic shock of war dispersed to some extent; but its aftershocks provide the novel's lowkey and yet insistent backdrop.

At the beginning of The Light Years, the Cazalets congregate for a summer holiday at Home Place, the family pile in Sussex. The story is structured around the four adult children of "the Brig" and "the Duchy"': their three sons Hugh, Edward and Rupert, each of them with wives and children in tow, and their unmarried daughter Rachel, who is conducting a discreet relationship with "Sid", speedily revealed to be a woman. In among the personal dramas – a dangerous birth, a spoilt younger wife, unhappy step-children, covert lesbianism – the largely silent Brig busily buys a spare farmhouse and sets about converting it for his family's use, adding wings and bathrooms and whatnot, all on the rolling proceeds of the family timber firm. But 20 years later, the firm is foundering, its revenues falling and its property portfolio rapidly becoming a liability rather than an asset. All three sons – uxorious Hugh, faithless Edward, indecisive Rupert – are now in charge, but they don't have their late father's head for business; and, even more fatally, they aren't equipped for or don't want to recognise the disaster about to befall them. It is as though the possibility of failure – and of the profound effect that it will have on their material circumstances and social standing – has simply not occurred to them; they are insulated until the moment an impertinent bank manager, certainly of a class below theirs, informs them to the contrary.

Other certainties are also fracturing. Edward's divorce and remarriage to the ghastly snob Diana, whose dresses are too small and makeup too liberally applied, has had its effects on his children: Louise, having walked out on her first husband and their son, is a wealthy man's mistress, and her brother Teddy flits between debs and barmaids. Hugh's daughter Polly, now Lady Fakenham and one of the series' most reliable favourites, is trying to get a wedding reception business going in her husband's dilapidated ancestral home, and is running into problems because the clients won't put up with one loo and salad cream instead of mayonnaise. Nannies and governesses are succumbing to senility. In protest at the whole crumbling edifice, one farflung relative has gone off to become a monk. Elsewhere, bohemianism laps at the family's respectability: Clary, once an awkward child who has become a literary type married to a much older man, writes a play candidly dissecting her marital trials and tribulations; her younger brother, a raffish photographer, falls in incestuous love. It's a far cry from nursery teas.

And yet there remains something deeply and comfortingly old-fashioned about what we are told will be the last slice of Cazalet life. It has its minor subversions, not least because its female characters, often the most interesting and sympathetic, are portrayed with an increasing sense of their own agency; even Rachel, the stay-at-home daughter rooted in the family home but with no actual control over what will become of it, proves herself to be surprisingly adaptable. But in spite of these developments, and a few small anachronisms, it cleaves to the reassuring form of the family drama, in which people come and go, get born and die off, fall in and out of love, and either stay firmly on track or go spectacularly off the rails. Even in 1990, it was hardly innovative, and now, despite our Downton-friendly, pastiche-loving times, it is difficult to imagine many more novels like this appearing. No matter. What the Cazalets had on their side was the strength of Howard's characterisation and her canny blend of sympathy and curiosity. Despite her finale's title, that has not changed.

Elizabeth Jane Howard: Hilary Mantel on the novelist she tells everyone to read
Elizabeth Jane Howard’s exquisite and understated novels have been overshadowed by her turbulent private life. But is the real reason why they are underestimated because they are books ‘about women, by a woman’?

Hilary Mantel
Sat 30 Jan 2016 11.00 GMT Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 12.53 GMT

Elizabeth Jane Howard: 'I never felt that Kingsley was a better writer than me'
 Read more
In recent years Elizabeth Jane Howard, who was always known as Jane, has become famous for a quartet of novels known as the “Cazalet Chronicles”, which draw on her own family story and were adapted for radio and television. Tracing the fortunes of an upper-middle-class family, the quartet begins in 1937 and covers a decade; a fifth novel, All Change, skips ahead to 1956. The novels are panoramic, expansive, intriguing as social history and generous in their storytelling. They are the product of a lifetime’s experience, and come from a writer who knew her aim and had the stamina and technical skill to achieve it. It would be rewarding if the readers who enjoyed the series were drawn to the author’s earlier work, when her talent seemed so effervescent, so unstoppable, that there was no predicting where it might take her. From the beginning she attracted superlatives, more for the gorgeousness of her prose than for the emotional extravagance of her characters. Their laughter was outrageous, their weeping contagious, their love affairs reckless. But there was nothing uncalculated about the author’s effects. From the first, she was a craftswoman.

Howard’s first novel, The Beautiful Visit, won the John Llewellyn Rhys memorial prize. It is daunting to think that The Long View, so accomplished, so technically adroit, was only her second book. It begins in 1950, and each part draws us backwards through the life of Antonia Fleming, till we arrive in 1926, when we find her as a young girl about to be tenderly deceived, baffled and bullied into wifehood.

Despite early praise and attention, it was hard for Howard to make a living. She came from a background where the necessity was not much considered. In The Long View, Mrs Fleming’s passport states her occupation as “Married Woman”. In this world, men are not obliged to explain or account for themselves. Creatures endlessly to be placated, they look to mould a woman into a satisfactory, if not perfect, wife. Conrad Fleming seeks to mould Antonia. He is a man of unblemished conceit, immaculate selfishness. Young female readers today may view him with incredulity. They should not. He is faithfully recorded. He is the voice of the day before yesterday, and also the voice of the ages past.

Howard was born in 1923 to a family who were affluent, well connected and miserable. Her father and his brother were the directors of the family timber firm. They didn’t do much directing; “they just had a jolly nice time,” she said. They had earned it. Her father had enlisted at 17, survived the great war on the western front, brought home a Military Cross. He was a warm father, but duplicitous and unsafe. Her mingled fear and fascination fuelled the Cazalet novels, which are less cosy than they appear. Her parents’ marriage and their subsequent relationships, together with her own, provided a model of instructive dysfunction for almost every story she wrote. “There were only two kinds of people,” thinks Conrad in The Long View, “those who live different lives with the same partner, and those who live the same life with different partners … ” It is one of many such jaundiced observations – pithily expressed, painfully accurate.

Howard’s mother, Kit, was a disappointed dancer. She had given up her professional career for marriage. The dancer’s world is so brutally testing that it’s hard to say, in any particular case, whether such a choice was coloured by a suspicion of being not quite good enough. Second-rate young men went abroad, their CVs condensed into the acronym FILTH: Failed in London, Try Hong Kong. Women in retreat from their potential could choose the internal exile of marriage, and the results were often dingy. Kit does not seem to have liked her daughter. Perhaps she was jealous of her. Howard was a young woman of spectacular looks. Repeatedly in the novels, mature adults gaze in mingled envy and delight at the person least to be envied, an adolescent who is a writhing mass of uncertainties. Howard had little formal education, but she was a reader. And her piano teacher imparted something of great value: “how to learn: how to take the trouble and go on taking it.”

Briefly, she became an actor. The second world war blighted her career hopes. Like Mrs Fleming, she saw “the value of lives rocketing up and down like shares on a crazy stock market”. In such an atmosphere, decisions were taken quickly – there was no long view. She was 19 when she married the naturalist Peter Scott, then a naval officer, aged 32. The night before the wedding, her mother asked her if she knew anything about sex, describing it as “the nasty side” of marriage. Howard’s daughter Nicola was born during an air raid. It was a horrific experience. She knew to save it up and use it later. When the war was over she abandoned husband and infant daughter, something the world does not readily forgive. She moved into a dirty flat off Baker Street: “a bare bulb in the ceiling, wooden floors full of malignant nails … the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to write.”

There was another marriage, a brief one, to a fellow writer. Then she became the second wife of Kingsley Amis, an acclaimed and fashionable novelist. Jane wanted love, sexual and every kind; she said so all her life, and she was bold in saying so, because it is always taken as a confession of weakness. The early years of the Amis marriage were happy and companionable. There is a picture of the couple working at adjacent typewriters. It belies the essential nature of the trade. Howard was strung on the razor wire of a paradox. She wanted intimacy, and writing is solitary. She wanted to be valued, and writers often aren’t. The household was busy and bohemian. She kept house and cooked for guests, some of them demanding, some of them long-stayers. She was a kind, inspiring stepmother to Amis’s three children. The marriage was, as Martin Amis has said, “dynamic”, but the husband’s work was privileged, whereas Jane’s was seen as incidental, to be fitted around a wife’s natural domestic obligations.

During those years she wrote a number of witty novels, full of the pleasures of life, while enduring periods of deep misery. Her husband was making money and collecting applause, but she kept faith with her talent. Well-bred people did not make a fuss or make a noise, her mother had told her, even when having a baby. That is a prescription for emotional deadness, not creative growth. But if pain can be survived, it can perhaps be channelled and put to work. In her novels Howard described delusion and self-delusion. She totted up the price of lies and the price of truth. She saw damage inflicted, damage reflected or absorbed. She had learned more from Austen than from her mother. Comedy is not generated by a writer who sails to her desk saying, “Now I will be funny”. It comes from someone who crawls to her desk, leaking shame and despair, and begins to describe faithfully how things are. In that fidelity to the details of misery, one feels relish. The grimmer it is, the better it is: slowly, reluctantly, comedy seeps through.

The journalist Angela Lambert has asked why The Long View is not recognised as one of the great novels of the 20th century. One might ask why Howard’s whole body of work is not rated more highly. It’s true her social settings are limited; so are Jane Austen’s. As in Austen’s novels, a busy underground stream of anxiety threatens to break the surface of leisured lives. The anxiety is about resources. Have I enough? Enough money in my purse? Enough credit with the world? In various stories, Howard’s characters teeter on the verge of destitution. Elsewhere, money flows in from mysterious sources. But her characters do not command those sources, nor comprehend them. Emotionally, financially, her vulnerable heroines live from hand to mouth. Even if they have enough, they do not know enough.

Their unarmed state, their vulnerability, gives them a claim on the sternest sensibility. Why should I care, some readers ask, about the trials of the affluent? But readers who do not care about rich characters do not care about poor ones either. Howard’s novels can be resisted by those who see the surface and find it bourgeois. They can be resisted by those who do not like food, or cats, or children, or ghosts, or the pleasures of pinpoint accuracy in observation of the natural or manufactured world: by those who turn a cold shoulder to the recent past. But they are valued by those open to their charm, their intelligence and their humour, who can listen to messages from a world with different values from ours.

But the real reason the books are underestimated – let’s be blunt – is that they are by a woman. Until very recently there was a category of books “by women, for women”. This category was unofficial, because indefensible. Alongside genre products with little chance of survival, it included works written with great skill but in a minor key, novels that dealt with private, not public, life. Such novels seldom try to startle or provoke the reader; on the contrary, though the narrative may unfold ingeniously, every art is employed to make the reader at ease within it. Understated, neat, they do not employ what Walter Scott called “the Big Bow-wow strain”. Reviewing Austen, and admiring her, Scott saw the problem: how can such work be evaluated, by criteria meant for noisier productions? From the 18th century onward, these novels have been a guilty pleasure for many readers and critics – enjoyed, but disparaged. There is a hierarchy of subject matter. Warfare should get more space than childbirth, though both are bloody. Burning the bodies rates higher than burning the cakes. If a woman engages with “masculine” subjects, it has not saved her from being trivialised; if a man descends to the domestic, writes fluently of love, marriage, children, he is praised for his empathy, his restraint; he is commended as intrepid, as if he had ventured among the savages to get secret knowledge. Sometimes, perfection itself invites contempt. She gets that polish because she takes no risks. Her work shines because it’s so small. I work on two inches of ivory, Austen said, ironically: much labour, and small effect.

Time has sanctified Austen, though there are still those who don’t see what the fuss is about. It helps that she was a good girl, with the tact to die young; with nothing to say about her private life and her heart guarded from examination, critics had to look at her text. Modern women have less tidy careers. When Howard died in 2014, aged 90, the Daily Telegraph’s obituary described her as “well-known for the turbulence of her personal life”. Other “tributes” dwelled on her “failed” love affairs. In male writers, affairs testify to irrepressible virility, but in women they are taken to indicate flawed judgment. Cecil Day-Lewis, Cyril Connolly, Arthur Koestler, Laurie Lee and Ken Tynan were among her conquests; though of course, the world thought they had conquered her. Divorces and breakups may damage the male writer, but the marks are read as battle scars. His overt actions may signal stupidity and lust, but the assumption is that at some covert level he acts to serve his art. A woman, it is assumed, does rash things because she can’t help it. She takes chances because she knows no better. She is judged and pitied, or judged and condemned. Judgments on her life contaminate judgments on her work.

Though authors such as Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield opened up a new way of witnessing the world, good books by women still fell out of print and vanished into obscurity: not just because, as in the case of male writers, fashion might turn, but because they had never been properly valued in the first place. In the 1980s, feminist publishing put them back on the shelves. Elizabeth Taylor, after a period of neglect, has come back into fashion. Barbara Pym was neglected, rediscovered, consigned again to being a curiosity. Sometimes a contemporary writer has to hold up a mirror for us; we have learned to read Elizabeth Bowen through the prism of Sarah Waters’s regard for her. Anita Brookner’s critical fortunes show that it is possible to win a major prize, be widely read and still be undervalued. For all her late success, and perhaps because of it, Howard’s work is misperceived. Her virtues are immaculate construction, impeccable observation, persuasive but inexorable technique. They may not make a noise in the world, but every writer can learn from them. In teaching writing myself, there is no author I have recommended more often, or more to the bewilderment of students. Read her, is my advice, and read the books that she herself read. In particular, deconstruct those little miracles, The Long View and After Julius. Take them apart and try to see how they are done.

I can’t remember the exact date I met Jane. It was at the Royal Society of Literature, in the late 1980s, at one of their meetings at Hyde Park Gardens. The RSL is lively now and based elsewhere, but in those days the gaunt premises, their lease shortening, seemed left behind by the world. Knowing the dust and decrepitude of the upper floors, the empty chill of the basement beneath, I was not awed by the grand neglected rooms, nor the grand neglected Fellows who stood looking out on to the terrace. Sometimes when you admire a writer you are disinclined to find out much about them. I must have seen photographs of Jane, but ignored them. My mental picture was of a small sinuous creature, with a gamine haircut and wide eyes like a lynx; someone who spoke in a dry whisper, if she spoke at all. The reality was quite different. Jane was tall and stately, with a deep, old-fashioned, actressy voice. She had the feline quality I had imagined, but it was leonine, tawny, dominant, not slinking nor fugitive. If she had purred, the room might have shaken. She was an impressive and powerful woman.

But in conversation, I found, she was kind and unassuming. She never forgot, in her fiction, what it was like to be a young girl, and she carried an ingénue spirit inside a wise and experienced body. She seemed self-conscious about the impression she created, and anxious – not to efface it, but to check and modify it, so as to put others at their ease. If they were not at ease, they could not show themselves and there would be nothing for her to carry away. She was interested in people, but not simply in a beady-eyed writer’s way. When she took the trouble to make a friend of me, she also made a friend of my husband, who is neither an artist nor a writer. She dedicated her last published book to us, jointly. It seemed too much. She had given me years of delight and instruction, and I felt I had not repaid her. In those years I was short of energy for friendship, though she must have seen I was not short of capacity. Our work did not make much of a fit, and we appeared together just once, at a small bookshop event. She read beautifully. Her professional training shone through, her voice strong and every pause judged to a microsecond. But she read unaffectedly, smiling, with pleasure in the audience’s enjoyment. I was happy that the Cazalet novels brought her new fans. As much as her style, I admired her tenacity. She was still writing when she died: a book called Human Error. I wish I had asked her which of the selection available she had chosen as her focus.

No doubt the best conversations are those that never quite occur. I sensed that we both lived in hope, and had frequently lived on it. I always felt there was something I should ask her, or something she meant to ask me. The morning after she died, I was one interviewee among many, talking about her on the radio. I was working in Stratford-on-Avon, so used the RSC’s studio. It was a last-minute, short-notice arrangement and I had only just learned of her death, so I may not have been eloquent. But I saw her face very clearly as I spoke. She had acted in Stratford as a girl, and she would have liked what the day offered: the dark wintry river, the swans gliding by, and behind rain-streaked windows, new dramas in formation: human shadows, shuffling and whispering in the dimness, hoping – by varying and repeating their errors – to edge closer to getting it right. In Jane’s novels, the timid lose their scripts, the bold forget their lines, but a performance, somehow, is scrambled together; heads high, hearts sinking, her characters head out into the dazzle of circumstance. Every phrase is improvised and every breath a risk. The play concerns the pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of love. Standing ovations await the brave.

 Elizabeth Jane Howard obituary
Novelist known for The Cazalet Chronicle which was adapted into a popular BBC television series
Janet Watts

Thu 2 Jan 2014 19.40 GMT First published on Thu 2 Jan 2014 19.40 GMT

For much of a career spanning more than 60 years, the writer Elizabeth Jane Howard, who has died aged 90, suffered a certain condescension from literary editors as a writer of "women's novels". But it did not deter her. She herself described her readers as "women and educated men", and expressed "puzzlement" when Margaret Drabble left her out of her 1985 edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature.

Jane (as she was always called) achieved a triumph in her 70s with The Cazalet Chronicle, a highly praised tetralogy of novels set in the England of 1937-47. The first two books, The Light Years (1990) and Marking Time (1991), became an acclaimed BBC TV series, The Cazalets, in 2001; though the BBC then cancelled a planned second series of the last two books, Confusion (1993) and Casting Off (1995). Jane bore both triumph and disappointment with the dignity that had already seen her through decades of literary acclaim and disdain.

She herself thought her work had improved with age. These novels show her maturity as a compelling storyteller, shrewd and accurate in human observation, with a fine ear for dialogue and an evident pleasure in the English language and landscape. She was thoroughly at home in their setting, which was just the sort of upper-middle-class English family, London locations and country houses (the main one is called Home Place) in which her own roots lay. In a later novel, Falling (1999), she chiselled a perfect structure for a story that contains many of the torments of love, betrayal and misjudgment that bedevilled her own life.

Like the Cazalets, her background was privileged but not easy. She was born in London. Her father, David, was a timber merchant who had swept her mother, Katharine, off her feet when she was a dancer in Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The family lived in a big house in Notting Hill with a tribe of servants; there were enchanting childhood summers in her grandparents' country house in Sussex. Her education was typical of her class and time: she had governesses at home while her two younger brothers went away to school.

This lack of formal education fed her self-doubt, but she showed great self-discipline and dedication in her chosen profession. Her output was prolific and her books achieved popularity and recognition. Her first novel, The Beautiful Visit (1950), won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize; as well as further novels she wrote short stories, articles, television plays, film scripts and a book on food with Fay Maschler. She also edited several anthologies. Her contributions to literary life included organising the Cheltenham and Salisbury festivals. She was made a CBE in 2000.

Jane was a very handsome, impressive woman. Though she looked rather grand, she did not use hauteur; there was a disarming candour and even humility in the way she talked about herself. It took her almost a lifetime, years of which she spent in psychotherapy, to come to terms with her relationship with her mother, who – she believed – did not like her. This experience, she said with harsh honesty, had made her "a tart for affection" for most of her life. Her striking looks, intelligence and varied talents brought her many admirers.

As a young woman she acted and modelled, and later she broadcast, cooked, sewed, gardened and decorated houses with flair and skill. But looking back, she declared that she had made a complete hash of her life, admitting and regretting her mistakes.

She was a bit of a bolter, as she was the first to admit: she married three times. The first, in 1942, was to Peter Scott, later a world-renowned naturalist and at that time a naval officer and war hero. She had her only child, Nicola, at 19. When Nicola was three, Jane – unhappy in her marriage and feeling unable to give her daughter as good a life as her distinguished husband could – left them both, an abandonment that brought deep difficulties between mother and daughter for many years, although they found resolution.

The poets Laurie Lee and Cecil Day-Lewis, whose wives were her friends, were among her lovers after her first divorce. Yet if there was duplicity in her makeup there were also qualities that attracted devoted friendship. Both the Lees and both the Day-Lewises wanted her to be godmother to their daughters; she accepted both requests. Day-Lewis wrote his last poem on her table, while staying as a guest in her house in the weeks before his death.

Her second marriage, to James Douglas-Henry in 1959, was for Jane a disaster of which, even in her many frank interviews, she could barely speak. But she indicated that he was unfaithful, did not make love to her, and was only interested in her money, of which she had very little. She left him after five years.

As an innovative director of the Cheltenham literary festival of 1962, she invited her fellow novelist Kingsley Amis to discuss sex and censorship in literature with Carson McCullers and Joseph Heller. The attraction between Amis and herself was powerful enough to end both their marriages. Their 18-year relationship made a gut-wrenching but fascinating public story, which began with romantic passion, high hopes and an elopement to Spain. It looked like a perfect match. One reason why she loved him, she said, was that he made her laugh. They married in 1965.

For eight years the couple held court to their friends and colleagues in a beautiful house on Hadley Common in Barnet. Jane later revealed that under the appearance of effortless glamour, she was single-handedly trying to do everything, from repairing and decorating the house to tending the huge garden. But she was not writing very much. Kingsley did that. His two adolescent sons, her brother and mother and a painter friend lived with them, and she produced regular meals for the household and spectacular ones for weekend guests, while struggling to cope with the idiosyncrasies of her husband. Years later it pleased her greatly when her stepson Martin Amis expressed gratitude for her contribution to his life as a writer. It was Jane who spotted ability and ambition in the teenage layabout. She got him reading (Jane Austen was the first breakthrough), and thence to Oxford. In his memoirs, Martin placed her – as a novelist – in the august company of Iris Murdoch, praising her "poetic eye" and "penetrating sanity".

The collapse of her third marriage was understandable, with its many pressures, but no less painful for that. In its latter years, especially after they moved from Barnet to Hampstead because Kingsley was missing his London life and friends, it became clear to Jane that he had come to dislike her. Nonetheless it was brave of her to leave him in 1980. This was not the first time she had been hurt by a man she had loved, but starting again was now a more daunting prospect. She was 57, and – although she did not seek or receive Amis's financial help – not as well-off as she seemed.

She planned her departure with a stratagem designed to minimise the hurt to Kingsley, which nevertheless outraged him. She went to a health farm for 10 days, thinking it would help him get used to her not being around; then, on the day she was due back, she had a note delivered to the house from her solicitor to say she was not returning. She went to live in Camden Town, in a house facing the traffic of a rat-run.

Kingsley never spoke to her again. His undisguised animosity to Jane figured in his late novels, and resurfaced in letters and biographies published after his death. The cruelty, subtlety and sharpness of this drama as it played out also proved worthy of her own pen, and the relationship and its protagonists appear several times in her fiction.

In 1990 Jane moved out of London and finally settled in a lovely old house in Suffolk, with some land, a riverbank and an island. There, she wrote, read, gardened, did her beautiful patchwork and tapestry, cherished her dog and her plants, and welcomed her friends, godchildren and family at weekends.

Her frank and detailed autobiography, Slipstream (2002), revealed how closely the Cazalet family was modelled on her own and that the roots of her novel Falling were in her own encounter with a conman. In November 2013, a fifth Cazalet novel, All Change, was published, shortly after a long-running dramatisation of the original quartet on BBC Radio 4.

In her later years she seemed blessed with a peace and pleasure that had hitherto eluded her. She was alone, and made it clear that she would have preferred not to be. But reconciliation had ended the years of estrangement with Nicola, and she basked in the affection of her daughter, four grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, who all survive her.

Jane once admitted that writing was the most "frightening" thing she did, and that she did not enjoy it. "I find it much too anxious a business," she said. She once tried to give it up altogether. But she couldn't. "When you write something which comes off, it's a feeling like no other," she said. "It's like being visited by something outside yourself."

• Elizabeth Jane Howard, writer, born 26 March 1923; died 2 January 2014

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