Stanley Middleton

Stanley Middleton

Profile

Stanley Middleton was a Nottingham-born novelist, poet and teacher. He was the author of more than 40 acutely observed novels of provincial life of which Holiday, the best-known of his works, won the 1974 Booker Prize.

Middleton's prolific literary career began with the publication of his first novel, A Short Answer, in 1958. His work was both acclaimed and criticised for its quiet, serious intensity: one reviewer likened reading Middleton’s writing to "cocking an ear to a radio with the volume turned down low. At first you don't pay much attention but pretty soon you get drawn in."

Holiday, published 26 years and 13 novels after A Short Answer, took its origin from an article by Auberon Waugh in which it was asserted that no good novel ought ever to have flashbacks. Middleton almost immediately set to work to write one that did. He wanted the density of years of experience to be successfully compacted within the time-span of the novel’s twelve months, condensing the Victorian triple-decker into the economies of the modern novel.

The themes explored in Middleton’s works, ‘novels of survival which deserve their own’ (Philip Ball, The Guardian) were undoubtedly universal. His narratives deeply engaged with the richly drawn inner lives of his characters: among his most notable works are Harris's Requiem (1960), centred around a struggling classical composer trying to create a masterpiece; The Daysman (1984), in which a comprehensive school headmaster juggles the demands of job and marriage with the lure of ambition; and Married Past Redemption (1993), in which the life of a young married couple is contrasted with the experience of older generations. His forty-fifth and final novel, A Cautious Approach, was published to critical acclaim after his death in 2009.