FARRELL, James Gordon. A Girl in the Head. London: Ebenezer Baylis and Son, Ltd, The Trinity Press for Jonathan Cape, 1967.

Octavo in 16s (186 x 124mm), pp. 223, [1 (blank)]. Original red boards by G.J. Kitkat Ltd, spine lettered and decorated with publisher’s device in gilt, top edges sage-green, dustwrapper with design by Bill Botten, not price-clipped. (Extremities minimally rubbed, small light mark on upper joint, bookblock very slightly leant, small mark on upper pastedown offsetting onto front free endpaper, dustwrapper minimally rubbed at edges, head of rear flap very lightly spotted and creased.) A very good copy in the dustwrapper.

First edition, first state of the dustwrapper. ‘J.G. Farrell has created a brilliant and memorable character in Boris. An ageing cynic, touching and turbulent, and an arid English seaside resort are brought effortlessly to life and idiosyncrasy. The strength and versatility of J.G. Farrell’s prose makes of Boris, his disasters and desolation, an intense and living world of comedy and pathos’ (dustwrapper blurb). Farrell was at the time, as the author profile on the rear dustwrapper flap explains, ‘living in the United States on a Harkness Fellowship. […] The Guardian described Farrell as “an exuberantly gifted writer” with “sure signs of the developing powers of a considerable talent”’.

The Times reviewed the book with bemusement about its ‘typographical eccentricities – in appearance rather like the Mouse’s Tale in Alice in Wonderland’ but concluded that this was ‘more than compensated for by the comedy, by the sharpness of observation, and by the almost Nabokovian obsession with minutiae’ (17 August 1967, p. 5). A Girl in the Head was published at 22s. 6d., and later states of the dustwrapper have been clipped to remove this printed price, which is replaced with a price-sticker on the upper flap.

J.G. Farrell, the Anglo-Irish prize-winning novelist of the 1960s and 1970s, is best known for his Empire Trilogy. (You may be interested to read the extensive introduction on Farrell’s life and oeuvre from our catalogue dedicated to Farrell’s works: J.G. Farrell (1935-1979).

Crane, ‘J.G. Farrell: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources’, I, A4.


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