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Synopsis

In this remarkable book, Jane Miller writes about the experience of being a daughter and a sister, about the intensities of family life and the illuminations that come from the last days of parents. Relations describes a record-keeping kinship and offers portraits of her parents' long marriage, its mysteries and incompatibilities, of her grandfather, the scientist Redcliffe Salaman, and of her great-aunt Clara Collet, one of the first women civil servants. It is a story in which Karl Marx and George Gissing have parts to play.

Here are the tensions of belonging and yet not belonging to an English middle-class at once hospitable to difference and internally divided. More than two hundred years of English history are present in these portraits, which show the dawning emancipation of women and the effects of empire on family life. It is the story of an evolution, of a move out of trade towards public service and the professions, and towards the dramas and family romance of recent times.

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