Laura Richardson, Stella Gibbons' daughter, hopes to find a publisher for two previously-unseen novels
Published: 16 January, 2014
EXCLUSIVE by DAN CARRIER
A PAIR of unpublished novels by the renowned comic novelist Stella Gibbons have come to light three decades after they were finished.
And the New Journal can now reveal how the writer’s daughter, Laura Richardson, and her family hope they may find a publisher willing to finally put her last two books into print.
The manuscripts have been gathering dust in a drawer for more than two decades and will be a source of great excitement in literary circles, where her works have enjoyed a trendy renaissance.
The New Journal revealed last week how Ms Gibbons is set to have a plaque unveiled on her Vale of Health home where she penned the classic Cold Comfort Farm, a book that has enchanted readers since its first edition in 1933.
Laura, who lives in Kentish Town, contacted the paper last week after reading of the plan by the Heath and Hampstead Society to honour her mum and in an interview recalled how Stella Gibbons finished two novels that she never sent to her publisher prior to her death in 1989.
Ms Richardson said: “The first is called An Alpha and is about a young woman who is from the Far East. She moves to Britain and becomes a successful writer.
“The second is called The Yellow Houses and is a bit of a ghost story. My mother converted to Christianity after meeting my father – she had been brought up an atheist – and they dabbled in spiritualism. This novel deals with that and other issues such as reincarnation. It was about a house where spirits flourished.
“They were finished and I would love to see them published.”
Stella’s grandson Ben Richardson, who lives in Dartmouth Park, added that the books were written in the 1980s and had been looked after by the family.
He said with the renewed interest in his grandmother’s work – the Vintage Classics imprint recently re-issued 13 of her novels and had to order a second print run after they sold out – they were hoping a publisher would like to read her final two books.
Laura Richardson recalls her mother working hard at the tomes from their family home in Holly Lodge, Highgate – but still found the time each day to go for long, inspiring walks on Hampstead Heath.
Laura said: “She was artistic, bohemian, creative. She loved the Heath – she would swim almost every day in the Ladies Pond.”
Author Lynne Truss told the New Journal that Stella was one of the great writers of the period and the idea of marking the house where she wrote Cold Comfort Farm was a fitting tribute.
She said: “I do think her time is coming – at last. When I read the biography written by her nephew Reggie Oliver, I was astonished most by her journalistic career in the 1920s. I had no idea there were such openings for women. Stella Gibbons not only had some good jobs, she evidently did them with panache. Her book reviews are often hilarious.
“Other women writers of the same generation had far more social advantages than Stella – I think this is one of the reasons I warm to her so much. Most other female writers of her stature were from great families, and so on.”
And she added that Stella was a must-read for any one who lived in the borough. She said: “Her origins in north London – and her abiding love for it – ought to make her very interesting to anyone who lives there now.
“I think anyone who loves Hampstead Heath and Highgate should read her novel Westwood – it’s infused with such affection for the place, and at the same time it’s funny and clear-sighted. It also captures a time and place – London in the war – in a really distinctive way. The first page, describing Hampstead Heath on an autumn afternoon, is wonderfully evocative.”