Charles, Gerda (writer)

Reference: MS 4629Date: c. 1919-1995Extent: 35 boxes

Gerda Charles was the pseudonym of Edna Lipson, an award-winning, Anglo-Jewish author and journalist.

Lipson was born on 10 March 1915 in West Derby, Liverpool to an Orthodox Jewish family. Her father abandoned Edna and her mother when she was a year old, and they lived in poverty as a result. Her Orthodox upbringing and difficult childhood without a father greatly impacted Lipson’s attitudes towards life and was reflected in many of her works. Although she only attended school in Liverpool until the age of 15, her mother encouraged her to read the works of famous authors such as the BrontĂ«s, Thackeray, Trollope, and many other Victorian writers.

After the Second World War, Lipson and her mother moved to London. She began attending evening classes in literature and writing at Morley College. Several of her short stories and essays were printed in the Morley Magazine, and Lipson was soon discovered by literary agents who wanted to publish her works.

In 1959, she published her first novel, The True Voice, under the pseudonym Gerda Charles, a name she used for all future publications. The book received positive reviews and even received the Book Society choice of the month award. However, the publication had to be withdrawn due to a libel case against her and her publisher, Eyre & Spottiswoode. This didn’t discourage Lipson from writing, and she published her second novel, The Crossing Point, a year later.

Lipson’s next three novels were nominated for and received various awards. A Slanting Light (1963) won the James Tait Black memorial prize. A Logical Girl (1967) was shortlisted for the Yorkshire Post book of the year award. Her last novel, The Destiny Waltz (1971) won the inaugural Whitbread award. In 1991, Gerda Charles described her novels as being about “the job of maintaining sanity, dignity and order” in the modern community. Lipson’s works garnered her high accolades from many, including C.P. Snow and Alexander Baron.

In addition to writing novels, Lipson worked as a journalist and reviewer for papers including the New Statesman, Daily Telegraph, New York Times and Jewish Chronicle. She also edited the anthology Modern Jewish Stories (1963).

Edna Lipson died on 4 November 1996.

This collection contains papers relating to Lipson’s literary works, correspondences, periodicals and reviews, and personal ephemera. There are holograph manuscripts, typescripts and proofs of her published work, including The True Voice, The Crossing Point, A Slanting Light, A Logical Girl and The Destiny Waltz, as well as numerous short stories, reviews and journalistic articles. There are also manuscripts of unpublished work, including the novel The Corner Stone. The collection also includes press cuttings; periodicals, including those to which she contributed; papers relating to the libel action brought against her by William Goldman; papers relating to a visit to the USA; engagement diaries; booklets and pamphlets; photographs; and ephemera.

Source for biographical information: Baker, W., 2015. Lipson, Edna [pseud. Gerda Charles]. [online] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

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