Elizabeth Jane Howard 1923–
English novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter, and editor.
Howard is noted for her sensitive observations of human relationships and for her precise, elegant style, which critics often describe as exquisite. Although her works contain highly romantic themes, critics point out that Howard avoids sentimentality through the use of satire, and they sometimes describe her as a novelist of manners. Howard's fiction usually revolves around female protagonists.
In Howard's novels the actions of her characters are prompted by a change of circumstance. For example, by visiting a family very different from her own, the adolescent protagonist in The Beautiful Visit (1950) makes discoveries about herself, and in After Julius (1965), it is a weekend gathering that brings together previously estranged characters. Some critics complain that such situations are overly contrived, while others praise their realism. Howard is also commended for her unorthodox narrative technique. In After Julius the point of view shifts from character to character, while The Long View (1956) traces the stages of a disintegrating marriage in reverse chronological order. The highly organized structure of these works has favorably impressed some critics.
Like her earlier works, Howard's recent novel, Getting It Right (1982), has drawn both praise and disapproval from critics. This story of a shy male hairdresser in search of a meaningful relationship has been faulted for its clichéd themes, stock characterizations, and poorly developed plot, but it has also been praised as a satire of middle-class mores.
(See also CLC, Vol. 7; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.; and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 8.)