The Knox Brothers by Penelope Fitzgerald
As featured in Best books... from Tessa Hadley. The award-winning novelist and short-story writer selects her favourite books.
Penelope Fitzgerald's biography of her remarkable family. 'When I was very young I took my uncles for granted, and it never occurred to me that everyone else in the world was not like them.' In this, only her second book, Penelope Fitzgerald turned her novelist's gaze on the quite extraordinary lives of her father and his three brothers. A masterly work of biography, within which we see Penelope Fitzgerald exercising her pen magnificently before she began her novel-writing career.
Edmund Knox, her father, was one of the most successful editors of Punch. Dillwyn, a Cambridge Greek scholar, was the first to crack the Nazi's message decoding system, Enigma, and in so doing, is estimated to have shortened the Second World War by six months. Wilfred became an Anglo-Catholic priest and an active welfare worker in the East End of London.
Ronald, the best known of the four during his lifetime, was Roman Catholic chaplain to Oxford University's student body, preacher, wit, scholar, crime-writer and translator of the Bible. A homage to a long-forgotten world and a fascinating account of the generation straddling the divide between late Victorian and Edwardian.