Connolly, Cressida 1960–
Connolly, Cressida 1960–
PERSONAL: Born 1960; daughter of Cyril Connolly (a writer); married; children: three.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.
AWARDS, HONORS: PEN/MacMillan Prize, for The Happiest Days.
The Happiest Days (short stories), Fourth Estate/HarperCollins (London, England), 1999, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The Rare and the Beautiful: The Art, Loves, and Lives of the Garman Sisters (biography), Ecco (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Daily Telegraph, Observer, and Vogue.
SIDELIGHTS: Cressida Connolly's short stories frequently depict protagonists on the cusp of change: a divorced woman gets a tattoo as a physical reminder that her life is taking a new course; several other characters discover guilty secrets that irrevocably change the status quo. In Canada, a wife and mother suddenly realizes the depth of her dissatisfaction with life on a family outing to the zoo. In another story, an adolescent girl catches her brother putting on her makeup and the moment stands without comment as an accurate gauge of the boy's mental disturbance. These stories are collected in Connolly's first book, The Happiest Days. Many of the stories center around adolescence, and many are told through the device of dual, alternating narrators.
"Cressida Connolly's first collection of short stories, The Happiest Days, contains no apprentice pieces or make-weights, but seems to spring fully armed from the author's head," wrote Claire Harman in the Times Literary Supplement. Harman liked the collection: "Connolly is good at endings and avoids poignancy. She prefers to point up the moral instead of modulating the symbolism, and the results seem frank and unaffected, like her youthful narrators. She seems really involved with her creations and alive to their predicaments." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote: "Gracefully styled stories herald the arrival on the literary scene of a talented writer in perfect command of her distinctive prose."
Connolly's next book was a family biography, The Rare and the Beautiful: The Art, Loves, and Lives of the Garman Sisters. It relates the unusual lives of the seven daughters and two sons born to a British doctor and his wife between 1898 and 1911. All "tall, gorgeous, and unconventional," according to Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman, they went on to make names for themselves in the art and literary circles of London, more because of the people they knew than because of their own works. Using Mary, Kathleen, Lorna, and brother Douglas as her main characters, the author creates an "elegantly insightful family portrait," in Seaman's opinion, as well as a look into their era. Colorful and interesting as their lives were, the siblings also had weaknesses, one of the most notable being their poor parenting skills. A Publishers Weekly writer noted that the Garmans themselves were raised at boarding schools and by servants, and that the author "captures this irresponsibility as both a personal and a generational pattern."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of The Rare and the Beautiful: The Art, Loves, and Lives of the Garman Sisters, p. 1813.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of The Rare and the Beautiful, p. 480.
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2000, review of The Happiest Days, p. 51; May 31, 2004, review of The Rare and the Beautiful, p. 59.
Times Literary Supplement, June 4, 1999, Claire Harman, review of The Happiest Days, p. 24.