Our featured author this month is Jane Aiken Hodge, an American-born British author who was best known for her historical novels (more than twenty of them!) and for her more contemporary mystery and crime books. She was pleased to be classed as a feminist writer, and was also an outspoken advocate of the right to assisted suicide, which would become relevant to her on a personal level in her old age.
She paused at last, breathless, to look back at the view of the river. Turning, she was aware of flurried movement. Someone was there, too close behind her, unheard because of traffic noise. A child? A woman? One arm raised. Patience reached out her own free hand and grabbed it.
“Flour!” she exclaimed as the open bag fell and burst on the ground. “What a disgusting trick!”
– Jane Aiken Hodge, A Death in Two Parts
Born 1917 in Massachusetts to Pulitzer prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken and his first wife, writer Jessie McDonald, Jane Aiken Hodge was 3 years old when her family moved to Great Britain. They settled in Rye, East Sussex, where her younger sister, Joan, who would become a novelist and a children’s writer, was born.
From 1935, Jane read English at Somerville College, Oxford University, and in 1938 she took a second degree in English at Radcliffe College in Massachusetts. She was a civil servant, and also worked for Time magazine, before returning to the UK in 1947; in 1972 she renounced her United States citizenship and became a British subject.
In addition to her many works of fiction, Hodge also wrote non-fiction books about Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, as well as a book on the lives of Regency women. Her final novel, published in 2003, was concerned with the issue of care of the elderly, something that must have weighed heavily on her mind; six years later, Hodge committed suicide, leaving behind a letter that her daughters say conveyed all too clearly her emotional struggle with keeping her plans secret from them. She feared making them accomplices, and thus she died alone, becoming, in her death, an even greater activist for her cause.
Bloomsbury Reader Titles by Jane Aiken Hodge