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Mason, Anita (Frances) 1942–

MASON, Anita (Frances) 1942–

PERSONAL: Born July 30, 1942, in Bristol, England; daughter of an airplane engineer. Education: Received degree from St. Hilda's College, Oxford, 1963. Politics: "Green anarchist."

ADDRESSES: Home—Bath, England. Agent—Jennifer Kavanagh, 39 Camden Park Rd., London NW1 9AX, England. E-mail[email protected] uk.

CAREER: Writer. Formerly worked in medical publishing, journalism, and as a freelance author. Writer in residence, Trinity and All Saints College, Leeds, England, 1983–84.

AWARDS, HONORS: Booker Prize shortlist, 1983, for The Illusionist; writer's fellowship, Leeds University, 1984; Fawcett Prize shortlist, 1990, for The Racket.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Bethany, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1981.

The Illusionist, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1983, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.

The War against Chaos, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988.

The Racket, Constable (London, England), 1990, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.

Reich Angel, Soho (New York, NY), 1994, published as Angel, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1994, Spinster Ink Books (Denver, CO), 2003.

The Yellow Cathedral, Spinster Ink Books (Denver, CO), 2002.

Perfection, Spinster Ink Books (Denver, CO), 2003.

Contributor to Cornish Times.

SIDELIGHTS: Anita Mason is a respected British novelist. Writing in Booklist, Donna Seaman claimed "Mason writes novels as rich and complex as good red wine." Her first work, Bethany, concerns two lesbians whose longtime relationship is threatened when a charismatic Zen guru visits their farmhouse for a summer. Already surrounded by a flock of slavish followers, the spiritualist—who is, at once, obnoxious and insightful—determines to add one of the women to his informal congregation. The ensuing battle of wills results in rebellion and, ultimately, betrayal among the lovers. Patricia Craig, in her Times Literary Supplement review, proclaimed Bethany an "intelligent first novel," and she described it as "exceptionally fairminded."

In her next novel, The Illusionist, Mason harkens to biblical times to recount the exploits of magician Simon Magus. Rebuffed by Christ's disciples, the wandering Magus takes to advocating his own peculiarly superstitious form of Christianity. Using his religion as a front, Simon wields his illusory powers to sate his sexual appetite and further his financial status. His journey eventually leads him to the Roman emperor Nero, before whom Magus is compelled to proclaim his idiosyncratic religious perspective. London Times reviewer Gay Firth hailed The Illusionist as a novel of "plausible action, vivid characters, and interestingly tense argument." Alan Brien, writing in New Statesman, found Mason's book to be "a brilliant and diverting portrait of a First Century magician."

Mason followed The Illusionist with The War against Chaos, which Toby Sculthorp described in the Times Literary Supplement as "a dystopian vision of a nameless city, governed, in an unspecified future, by an Orwellian Council" that exerts control by manipulating news and information. In this world the arts are considered subversive, and only a mysterious place known as the Zone is rumored to provide any alternative to the dullness of present life. The hero, who has lost his wife and his job, determines to discover and penetrate the Zone. Elaine Feinstein wrote in the Times that the novel has an "intriguing quality."

The Racket is Mason's fourth novel, in which two Brazilian cousins each run afoul of the corrupt and criminal. Rosa, a teacher, has unintentionally offended a powerful landowner interested in defiling territory belonging to indigenous peoples for personal gain. Rosa's cousin Fabio, a drifter, has attempted to break away from his former employer, a vicious businessman. Fleeing his former boss's henchmen, Fabio eventually arrives at Rosa's home. Together they then face their respective foes. Jo-Ann Goodwin, in her Times Literary Supplement review, noted that in The Racket, "Mason lays claim to the grand territory of good and evil, moral truths and the condition of the soul. In doing so she avoids both sentimentality and the lure of overblown conclusions." Goodwin also remarked on Mason's "remarkable flexibility," stating that the author's "portrait of Brazil is wholly convincing."

Mason's Reich Angel is a novel of historical fiction partially based on the real life of Hanna Reitsch, a woman who became an ace pilot for Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany. Mason's character Frederika Kurtz is a tomboy who defies her respectable middle-class family to train as a pilot, rising to become the chief test pilot for the Nazi air force. Despite her reservations about working for the Nazis, Frederika knows that they are the only chance she has to fulfill her lifelong dream of flying. During World War II, she pilots an experimental version of the V-1 rocket, visits the bloody Russian front, and is present in the Berlin bunker as Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide. She escapes Berlin at the last moment by flying out under heavy fire. "The strongest part of the book," Jyl Lynn Felman wrote in the Lambda Book Report, "is in its descriptions of airplanes and pilot training, and the author's meticulously written account of Germany's imperative need for its own air force. The near-flawless integration of this historically accurate information into the narrative line is remarkable." The critic for Publishers Weekly called Reich Angel a "viscerally realistic novel."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of Reich Angel, p. 1730.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1995, review of Reich Angel, p. 418.

Lambda Book Report, September, 1995, Jyl Lynn Felman, review of Reich Angel, p. 31.

Library Journal, June 15, 1995, review of Reich Angel, p. 96.

New Statesman, January 9, 1981, p. 21.

New York Times Book Review, July 16, 1995, review of Reich Angel, p. 34.

Progressive, December, 2002, review of The Yellow Cathedral, p. 44.

Publishers Weekly, May 1, 1995, review of Reich Angel, p. 43.

Spectator, February 14, 1981.

Times (London, England), January 8, 1981; August 4, 1983, Gay Firth, review of The Illusionist; June 30, 1988, Elaine Feinstein, review of The War against Chaos.

Times Literary Supplement, January 16, 1981, Patricia Craig, review of Bethany; August 26, 1983; July 8, 1988, Toby Sculthorp, review of The War against Chaos; November 9, 1990, Jo-Ann Goodwin, review of The Racket, p. 1214; June 10, 1994, review of Reich Angel, p. 24.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), September 29, 1991, p. 6.

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