Olivia Manning

Olivia Manning

Manning, Olivia, 1911-80, English novelist, b. Portsmouth, Hampshire. During World War II she served as a journalist in the Middle East. She is best known for her "Balkan trilogy": The Great Fortune (1960), The Spoilt City (1962), and Friends and Heroes (1966). These novels concern a British diplomat and his wife in Eastern Europe during World War II, and they brilliantly juxtapose historical and personal events.
''Olivia Manning is also the name of the wife of Archie Manning and mother of Eli and Peyton Manning.
Olivia Manning (March 2, 1908 in PortsmouthJuly 23, 1980 on the Isle of Wight) was a noted British novelist. She studied at the Portsmouth School of Art then escaped Portsmouth to work at Peter Jones department store, the Medici Society and for MGM. Her first novel under her own name, The Wind Changes, was published in 1937. Before that she had written romantic thrillers under the pseudonym Jacob Morrow.

Manning married her husband R.D. "Reggie" Smith in 1939. He was a British Council teacher and later a BBC radio producer. In 1955, The Doves of Venus was published.

Olivia Manning is best known for Fortunes of War, a narrative consisting of two trilogies (The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy) chronicling the wartime experiences of a group of English expatriates who find themselves moving between Romania, Greece, Egypt and Palestine as World War II progresses.

Anthony Burgess described Fortunes of War as ‘the finest fictional record of the war produced by a British writer’. Certainly, the first two volumes (The Great Fortune, published in 1960 and The Spoilt City, published in 1962) make compelling reading. Set against the background of Bucharest in early wartime, they have a superb period feel, chronicling the changes in Romanian society (and the lives of the British expatriate community) as the corrupt regime of King Carol II tries unsuccessfully to keep Romania out of the war. The leading characters, Harriet and Guy Pringle (the latter a lecturer and a passionate communist), are based on Manning herself and her husband R. D. Smith. The third volume, Friends and Heroes take place in Greece and Athens as the Greeks were gaining the first allied victories against the Italians. Meanwhile, the couple strive to save their marriage against a background of rumours, betrayals and political intrigues.

Bibliographic Sources

  • Braybrooke, Neville and June Olivia Manning: A Life (published by Chatto, November 2004) ISBN 0-7011-7749-7
  • The Rain Forest (first published by Heinemann in 1974)
  • The Doves of Venus (introduction by Isobel English)
  • The Play Room (introduction by Isobel English)
  • Artist Among the Missing (1949)
  • School of Love (1951
  • A Different Face (1953)
  • The Balkan Trilogy: The Great Fortune (1960)
  • The Spoilt City (Balkan Trilogy -1962)
  • Friends and Heroes (Balkan Trilogy -1965)
  • The Rain Forest (1974)
  • The Danger Tree (Levant Trilogy - 1977)
  • The Battle Lost and Won (Levant Trilogy - 1978)
  • The Sum of Things (Levant Trilogy - 1980)


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