Rediscovering Ann Bridges, author of Permission to Resign

Author Ann Bridges, known in early years as Cottie Sanders, whose full name was Mary Ann Dolling (Sanders) O'Malley.

Left to Right: Jack Sanders; Cottie Sanders or Mary Ann Dolling (Sanders) O’Malley; George Mallory. Pen-y-Pass, 1911.

This week’s most interesting read was Permission to Resign, an account by his wife of Sir Owen St Clair O’Malley’s travails with the British government and her efforts to influence matters; action that must have seemed astonishing to the men of Whitehall at the time.

Mrs O’Malley’s forthright efforts were effective. They also brought to light the kind of double standards that we experience far too often in the 21st century. Those ruling the UK then would have been startled at how much criminal activity has been carried out under the name of finance in this century.

The book was written in 1971, some 20 years after the events described in Permission to Resign. She wrote this to clarify details that could not be spoken of at the time of her husband’s effective dismissal from his post in Foreign Affairs. By this time, Mary Ann Dolling O’Malley had become better known – at least outside government circles – as the novelist and non-fiction author, Ann Bridge.

My accidental discovery of Permission to Resign followed an earlier encounter with Ann Bridge. I was idly trolling the archives of the Sussex Library System when I found Illyrian Spring – a study of the relationship between an older woman (artist) and a budding young male artist. This turned out to somewhat in the style of the young Lawrence Durrell, i.e. ‘Bitter Lemons’. Except that Illyrian Spring is more sensitively written, in my opinion.

Dismissively described by unknown pundits of literature as “entertaining travelogues”, Ann Bridge’s writing encompasses far more than descriptive writing about time and place; she infuses her visual narrative with perceptive insights into psychology and human fallibility whilst, simultaneously, using the methods of a skilled detective story writer in this novel.

Wikipedia confirms: Ann Bridge (11 September 1889 – 9 March 1974) was also known as Cottie Sanders. She wrote 14 novels, mostly based on her experiences living in foreign countries, one book of short stories, a mystery series, and several autobiographical non-fiction books.

Her last book explores the paranormal. I just discovered that from a hitherto unknown website whilst researching the writer: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/b/ann-bridge/

There is, however, nothing fantastic or fictional about Permission to Resign.

Along with Illyrian Spring, which I was moved to read twice in as many months, Ann Bridge’s last book, Moments of Knowing, is now on my Kindle – such are the immediate pleasures of instant online ordering.