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Farewell Leicester Square

by Betty Miller
Persephone book no:

13 14 15

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A Well Full of Leaves
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ISBN 9781903155035

Betty Miller wrote this, her fourth novel, in 1935. But her publisher, Victor Gollancz, 'turned the book down flat,' wrote Neal Ascherson in The New York Review of Books. 'It seems most likely that he saw it as terrifyingly provocative, not only an attack on the solid English assimilation of his own family but a tactless outburst against the English at precisely the moment, two years after Hitler's assumption of power, when their tolerance and hospitality were most needed.'

In the novel Alec Berman escapes from his restrictive Jewish family in Brighton, and although he has a successful career as a film-maker (perhaps modelled on that of Alexander Korda) and marries the very English Catherine, he always feels a 'Dago: Jew: Outsider.' 'Yet,' continued Neal Ascherson, 'the rejection is not really the refusal of a snobbish Gentile world fully to accept him. The rejecting force comes from within himself.'

'A thought-provoking insight into anti-semitism between the wars,' wrote the Guardian, 'not the violent prejudice of Mosley's fascists, but the discreet discrimination of the bourgeoisie.' An exceptional novel about what it means to be an outsider in England, it is also a fascinating portrait of the 1930s film world.

For more on Farewell Leicester Square, have a look at the Persephone Perspective.


The endpaper fabric is 'Black Goose' (1938) by EQ (Elsie) Nicholson, a cotton hand printed with lino blocks; the sky-blue background is strikingly beautiful and the black geese have overtones of the 'black sheep' of the family. (It is available to purchase by the metre from Borderline.)

Picture Caption

British Union of Fascists March, London, 1936

Read What Readers Say

Book Snob (blogger)

Betty Miller was 25 when she wrote this, which is remarkable. The structure of ‘Farewell Leicester Square’ is cleverly done to echo Alec’s profession as a film maker. This is essentially a novel about identity and the growth of a boy into a man; daring and thought-provoking, it is beautifully and perceptively written with flashes of real artistic brilliance and some wonderful observations.

Heaven Ali (blogger)

Betty Miller’s writing is excellent. In ‘Farewell Leicester Square’ she slyly exposes petty everyday racism that is of course in fact far from petty, it’s destructive; in Alec it breeds a kind of paranoia – which blights his life. Miller’s portrayal of both middle class English life and the suffocating limits of Alec’s family home in Brighton is brilliantly done. Such writing deserves recognition, and I am glad Persephone books saw fit to re-issue it.

Categories: Fathers Ireland London Men (books about) Politics Race Sex

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