The Knox Brothers, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Penelope Fitzgerald's biography of her remarkable family. 'When I was very young I took my uncles for granted, and it never occurred to me that everyone else in the world was not like them.' In this, only her second book, Penelope Fitzgerald turned her novelist's gaze on the quite extraordinary lives of her father and his three brothers.

A masterly work of biography, within which we see Penelope Fitzgerald exercising her pen magnificently before she began her novel-writing career.

Edmund Knox, her father, was one of the most successful editors of Punch.

Dillwyn, a Cambridge Greek scholar, was the first to crack the Nazi's message decoding system, Enigma, and in so doing, is estimated to have shortened the Second World War by six months.

Wilfred became an Anglo-Catholic priest and an active welfare worker in the East End of London.

Ronald, the best known of the four during his lifetime, was Roman Catholic chaplain to Oxford University's student body, preacher, wit, scholar, crime-writer and translator of the Bible.

A homage to a long-forgotten world and a fascinating account of the generation straddling the divide between late Victorian and Edwardian.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages, portraits
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: general
  • ISBN: 9780007118304



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The randomness of life. . . the peculiarity of families. . . the intensity of belief, and of unbelief . . . the relentless search for patterns in what initially appears to be a random universe . . . the calm essence of the English countryside.Careful readers of this collective biography of Penelope Fitzgerald's uncles (and her father) will discover many clues to understanding the matrix of meanings in her delightful and deep fiction.One brother the editor of "Punch," England's most successful humor magazine. One brother a brilliant classical scholar and code-breaker who played a central role in deciphering the German Enigma code-machine during World War II. One brother a quiet and holy Anglo-Catholic recluse. One brother a widely beloved Roman Catholic priest who translated the Bible singlehandedly - and wrote detective novels on the side.Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000) was a Booker-prize winning novelist who published a much-admired series of small, gem-like novels from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Set in a variety of places - Italy, Germany, Russia, London - and in a variety of times - the 1950s, pre World War I Cambridge, early 19th century Germany - they are among my favorite recent fictions. In "The Knox Brothers" you really get a clear sense "where she was coming from." I much enjoyed the fondness and the sympathy which was behind nearly every page of this "family history." This was only the second book which Penelope Fitzgerald wrote, but it is written with a modest mastery that readers will also find in her later books.

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