Widdecombe, Ann (Noreen) 1947-

views updated

WIDDECOMBE, Ann (Noreen) 1947-


Born October 4, 1947 in Bath, Somerset, England; daughter of James Murray (CB/OBE, Head of Naval Supplies and Transport, Ministry of Defense) and Rita Noreen (Plummer) Widdecombe. Education: Birmingham University, B.A. (honors Latin), Oxford University, B.A. (honors in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics), Lady Margaret Hall, M.A., 1976. Politics: Conservative. Religion: Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, researching Charles II's escape.


Home—Kloof Cottage, Sutton Valence, Maidstone, Kent, England. Office—House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, England.


British politician. Unilever, marketing department, 1973-75; London University, senior administrator, 1975-87; member of parliament for Maidstone (later Maidstone and The Weald), 1987—; under secretary of State Department of Employment, 1993; minister of State Department of Employment, 1994; minister of State Home Office, 1995; member of Standards and Privileges Committee of the House of Commons, 1997; Shadow Health Secretary, 1998; Shadow Home Secretary, 1999.


Layman's Guide to Defence, 1984.

Inspired and Outspoken, 1999.

The Clematis Tree, Weidenfeld and Nicholson (London, England), 2000.

Right From the Beginning, Politico's Publishing Limited (London, England), 2001.

An Act of Treachery Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 2003.


The Clematis Tree was adapted for audiocassette, Chivers Audio Books (London, England), 2001; An Act of Treachery was adapted for audiocassette, BBC Audiobooks America.


A third novel.


Ann Widdecombe is a member of parliament representing a constituency in Kent, is also a former Conservative minister, and one of several British politicians to turn novelist in recent years. She has published two novels that explore issues of morality, The Clematis Tree and An Act of Treachery. Widdecombe's books have been closely examined for political import, but at the time of her first novel's release she told Books Magazine that she was not attempting to press her political agenda. She also explained that she has always loved writing. After winning essay prizes at school, she wrote a novel, now lost, during her college years.

The Clematis Tree chronicles how a couple's rocky marriage is further challenged when their son is brain-damaged after being run over by a car. While Claire and Mark Wellings struggle with caring for the boy at home, his aunt, a member of parliament, is working on a euthanasia bill. Reviews of the novel concentrated on the author's political reputation and on the book's literary merits. In Guardian Unlimited Books Stephen Moss sorted through several reviews and noted "the most pointedly (and personal) knocking review came from Miss Widdecombe's former Conservative colleague, Edwina Currie," who is also a novelist. He quoted Curried as calling the style "almost dottily old-fashioned." But Moss explained that while "The cynic in me expected Ann Widdecombe's debut novel … to be universally panned.… others were ready to take the novel seriously."

Reviews included criticism on stylistic matters and commendations for tackling a complex theme. In New Statesman, Rowan Pelling called the book a "a thinly disguised moral tract" in which "the hallmark of Widdecombe's writing is the neat correlation of cause and effect.…The author has precious little time for cruel Fate; tragedy in her fiction is a direct result of breaching middle-class mores." The Spectator's D. J. Taylor judged that "this novel would not have been published did its author not double up as shadow home secretary." Taylor noted, however, "on the plus side, it is a well-meaning book about a serious subject … written with great sympathy and compassion." Writing for the Times Literary Supplement, Rupert Shortt also felt that the author "should be saluted for raising an important moral conundrum," while remarking that the novel had "the breezy style and two-dimensional characters of airport fiction, but scarcely a trace of either sex or shopping."

Widdecombe's next novel, An Act of Treachery, is primarily set in World War II's German occupation of France. The protagonist is Catherine Dessin, a schoolgirl who lives in Paris. As a teenager, she falls in love with a married German officer, Klaus, who is also much older and has children. When she is eighteen they have an affair, despite her family's disapproval and conflict with her Catholic upbringing. Catherine sees how Klaus struggles to do good at the same time that he cannot overtly turn against the Nazi regime. Klaus is killed in the war, leaving Catherine pregnant with his child.

A Kirkus Reviews writer described the book as "unconvincing" and "more queasy-making than heart-rending; Catherine is worse than just a fool for love." In a review for the Times Literary Supplement, Sarah Curtis noted that Widdecombe's "plot has ingenious twists which surprise the reader and her prose has pace." However, she concluded, "Both characters seem constructed to illustrate moral conflicts. At the end it is suggested that all love is an act of treachery because it involves submersion of the self, a dubious assertion which it would take a more subtle book than this to uphold." In Reformer magazine, Lindsay Moore called the novel "commendable" and remarked that Widdecombe "handles her chosen subject with a skill and insight that many … would not immediately consider her capable of, given her parliamentary reputation."



Books Magazine, spring, 2000, Liz Thomson, "Widdecombe Set Fair," p. 16.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of An Act of Treachery, p. 1655.

New Statesman, May 1, 2000, Rowan Pelling, "Back to Basics," p. 54.

Spectator April 22, 2000, D. J. Taylor, review of The Clematis Tree, pp. 33-34.

Times Literary Supplement June 23, 2000, Rupert Shortt, review of The Clematis Tree, p. 33; July 19, 2002, Sarah Curtis, review of An Act of Treachery, p. 23.


Guardian Unlimited Books,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (April 20, 2000), Stephen Moss, article about The Clematis Tree.

Reformer,http://www.trg.org.uk/reformer/2002autumn/ (Autumn, 2002), Lindsay Moore, review of An Act of Treachery.

Widdy Web (Ann Widdecombe Home Page), http://political.co.uk/annwiddecombe (February 13, 2004),*