Fitzsimons paints a vivid picture of Nesbit, dressed in silks and Turkish slippers, never without a tin of tobacco and a cigarette in her amber cigarette holder, strings of beads and Indian bangles reaching from wrist to elbow. Even in advanced age, Nesbit was still taking on more work than she could easily do and staying up all night to meet deadlines. The Life and Loves of E Nesbit comes on the heels of another biography by Elisabeth Galvin; Nesbit fully deserves the reassessment of her position in literary history. Fitzsimons’s thorough, very readable book shows rich evidence of work in the archives, though it also owes a debt (fully acknowledged) to Doris Langley Moore, whose biography of Nesbit came out in 1933, only nine years after the author’s death, and who therefore had an opportunity to interview many of the players in her life.
Edith Nesbit is a biographer's dream ... It seems little surprise that her novels tend to feature hardworking mothers battling in the background to keep the family afloat. Fitzsimons makes this connection and her book is interesting in showing how Nesbit’s lifelong socialist principles found expression in her children’s books. Yet perhaps the biographer is too insistent on drawing links between the life and the fiction... Fitzsimons does not always allow for the complex workings of fantasy, craft and imagination in the fiction – elements that are just as relevant, one suspects, in Nesbit’s approach to life.
Eleanor Fitzsimons’s affectionate and detailed new life of Nesbit appears more than 30 years after Julia Briggs’s A Woman of Passion (1987), which I suspect it will complement rather than supersede. Its starting point is the adult reader Fitzsimons now is, and the child reader of Nesbit she used to be... This book isn’t so much biography as bricolage, both distinguished and hampered by its research... Fitzsimons’s ability to swim around and about in her subject’s writing is illuminating, but gives the book a structural monotony
It is, as the title says, about her life and loves, although it turns out that there are fewer of them than there might have been. It’s an engaging story. Edith Nesbit was a fantastically sociable socialist, she lived in a ménage à trois, she had a crush on George Bernard Shaw, she knew HG Wells rather too well, she was one of the first Fabians, she couldn’t stick the suffragettes and she wrote children’s books that are immortal.