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The return and debut of Amanda Foreman

By Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-11-04 at 11.23.48 Amanda Foreman's Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire was greeted with applause when first published in 1998.  "The Duchess", starring Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes, was based on it.  Foreman's used to film: she's the daughter of Carl Foreman, who won an Oscar (posthumously) for his screenplay work for Bridge on the River Kwai.

The father emigrated to Britain after being blackballed by Hollywood's moguls.  He'd refused to give the names of Communist Party members to the House Committee on un-American activities during the McCarthy saga - though he testified that he'd left the Party.  But while her father started out on the left, Foreman seems to have started out on the right.  She was a committed conservative when I first knew her some ten years ago.

Her second book was awaited.  She married, moved to America, and started working on it.  This year, it arrived.  And this morning, she's in the Independent, writing about the mid-term elections, arguing that the Tea Party movement will divide the Republicans, that Obama will look strong rather than stubborn come the next Presidential election, and that the President's situation in some ways resembles one of his heroes - Abraham Lincoln.

Foreman concedes that "there is no such thing as a direct historical parallel", and I'm not sure whether hers is right.  But she'd make an interesting addition to the gallery of British writers in America - John O'Sullivan, Zoe Heller, Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, and so on.  She hasn't written regularly on politics before, so I'm treating this morning's piece as a debut.

The new book is A World On Fire, which tells the story of British involvement in the American civil war.  It was, she says, the largest non-British war ever fought by British men and women - "Never again, not even during the Spanish Civil War, would so many risk their lives on behalf of a foreign cause".


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