An Avenue of Stone is part of a trilogy (including also Too Dear for My Possessing and A Summer to Decide) which describes the life of Claud Pickering; but each novel is complete in itself and can be read independently. In this, the central figure is Claud's stepmother, Lady Helena Archer, at one time an actress, who is now growing old but still has enough vitality and character to hold off the realization of old age. The story of her relationships, emotional and often stormy, with her family and her friends during the later years of World War II and the beginnings of peace, is a remarkable study of an ageing woman, and a shrewd appraisal of the people she meets -- in different ways so typical of their time.
Pamela Hansford Johnson was born in 1912 and gained recognition with her first novel, This Bed Thy Centre, published in 1935. She wrote 27 novels. Her themes centred on the moral responsibility of the individual in their personal and social relations. The fictional genres she used ranged from romantic comedy (Night and Silence, Who Is Here?) and high comedy (The Unspeakable Skipton) to tragedy (The Holiday Friend) and the psychological study of cruelty (An Error of Judgement). Her last novel, A Bonfire, was published in the year of her death, 1981. She was a critic as well as a novelist and wrote books on Thomas Wolfe and Ivy Compton-Burnett; Six Proust Reconstructions (1958) confirmed her reputation as a leading Proustian scholar. She also wrote a play, Corinth House (1954), a work of social criticism arising out of the Moors Trial, On Iniquity (1967), and a book of essays, Important to Me (1974). She received honorary degrees from six universities and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She was awarded the C.B.E. in 1975. Pamela Hansford Johnson, who had two children by her first marriage with journalist Gordon Neil Stewart, later married C. P. Snow. Their son Philip was born in 1952.
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