Books of the year 2011: Peregrine Worsthorne

The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life - William Nicholson


The progressive assumption today is that Britain's upper and upper-middle classes - the people who so fascinated Henry James - no longer have lives of secret intensity and, because of this, they are no longer worth writing about except by novelists, such as Joanna Trollope, who are not taken seriously. To my surprise and delight, a month ago I came across a contemporary novelist, William Nicholson, who has had the courage to rise above this prejudice and write a beautiful novel actually entitled The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life (2009; Quercus, £7.99 paperback), all about those upper classes, whose lives, for once, are seen through the eyes of a poet rather than those of an egalitarian idealist. Nicholson has written several other novels, which I look forward to reading in the New Year.

My other book of the year is Craig Brown's One on One (Fourth Estate, £16.99), a series of bizarre encounters, such as that between Marilyn Monroe and Nikita Khrushchev - an original conceit flawlessly executed.

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