It’s 1965, and in Primrose Hill, north London, a beautiful young woman has just gassed herself to death, leaving behind a suicide note, two small children, and an about-to-be-published manuscript: The Captive Wife. Like Sylvia Plath, who died in eerily similar circumstances two years earlier just two streets away, Hannah Gavron was a writer. Surrounded by success, she seemed to live a gilded life. But there was another side to Hannah, as Jeremy Gavron’s memoir of his mother reveals. Searching for the mother who was never talked about as he grew up, he discovered letters, diaries, and photos that paint a picture of a brilliant but complex young woman grappling to find an outlet for her creativity, sexuality, and intelligence. As he explains, his new book documents the too-short life of an extraordinary woman and is also an examination of the suffocating constrictions in place on intelligent, ambitious women in the middle of the twentieth century.
Jeremy Gavron is the author of two non-fiction books and three novels, including The Book of Israel, winner of the Encore Award, and An Acre of Barren Ground. A former foreign correspondent in Africa and India, he lives now in London, and teaches at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.
This is a Festival of Ideas event.