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This review is taken from PN Review 153, Volume 30 Number 1, September - October 2003.

A DOGGED ABSENCE FREDA DOWNIE, There'll Always Be an England (Bloodaxe) £7.95
FREDA DOWNIE, Collected Poems, edited by George Szirtes (Bloodaxe) £8.95
JULIA COPUS In Defence of Adultery (Bloodaxe) £7.95

A quiet, quirky poet of casual depth, Freda Downie deserves to be more widely read than she is. The publication of her Collected Poems should help in this regard; it's less clear whether the appearance of There'll Always Be an England, the memoir of childhood Downie wrote in the last year of her life, will have the same effect. An attentively observed account of a pillar-to-post 1930s and 1940s childhood, which is at times darkly comic -'Air raids were awful affairs if you hated noise; but if you were only afraid of dying, they were bearable' - it is a memoir littered with well-drawn, if largely ephemeral, characters, some of whom we get to see on some extremely washed out photos (couldn't they have been retouched a bit?): 'This little girl holding the sunshade is not Patsy Holdsworth. This child visited the people next door one day, and charmed us all. Sadly, she disappeared at the end of the day and was never seen again.'

Despite the humour and detail, the memoir is a rather flat affair, its stubbornly plain prose and syntactical uneventfulness making for a colourless read. Her description of a scene from a film 'in which the heroine, left alone in large empty house at night, responded to fate fixing a flower in her hair and dancing on a bare floor patterned with moonlight' pales when put alongside this poem the same event inspired ('Solitaire')

Moonlight restored the window,
Threw ...


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