Mavis Cheek obituary


Mavis Cheek, who has died aged 75, was the creator of a collection of comedian novels that forged an acute eye on middle-class marriage and relationships and marked her out as one of many wittiest commentators of her technology.

She started writing journalism and brief tales within the Eighties and printed her first novel after an agent suggested her that she was humorous and will write as she spoke. Pause Between Acts was printed in 1988, successful the She/John Menzies prize for a primary novel, and 14 books adopted.

At first she struggled to search out her area of interest: “Once I began writing humorous books, the bookshelves in retailers had no class for me. They put me in Romance, and albeit, my books have been as near Romance as Rudolph Nureyev was to arc welding.”

Her novels rejoice her affection for the absurd alongside the tragic-comedic parts typically present in home relationships – normally ones that disillusioned. Amenable Girls (2008) tells how a girl, free of an infuriating husband by a deadly balloon incident, considerably bizarrely and triumphantly goes on to change into deeply concerned with the lifetime of Anne of Cleves.

In Janice Light Will get Horny (1993), the protagonist is an obese, reclusive, romantic novelist who’s requested to make her books sexier as a way to promote; Mavis’s lampooning of the cut-throat literary world is apt and cruelly humorous. Mrs Fytton’s Nation Life (summarised in a single evaluation as “jokes, revenge, an errant husband coming again to roost”) appeared in 2000, adopted by Aunt Margaret’s Lover (2003), the analysis for which concerned Mavis assembly 30 males in six weeks for champagne dates on the Ritz.

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The Lovers of Pound Hill, 2011, by Mavis Cheek

When Mavis started writing The Intercourse Lifetime of My Aunt (2002), there was an thought it might change into an autobiography, however because it “declined into self-pity”, the guide turned her tenth novel. Dilly social-climbs her approach out of poverty into the proper life of sentimental furnishings and standing solely to sabotage all of it for the love of a person she meets on a practice.

This was adopted by Patrick Parker’s Progress (2004) and Yesterday’s Homes (2007), one other novel that drew on her personal experiences. Mavis wrote about what she knew: “Anybody who is aware of me effectively might level to the bits which are me,” she as soon as mentioned.

Her final novel, The Lovers of Pound Hill, appeared in 2011, and three of her books have been reissued in 2019. “It’s an artwork, getting the comedian timing proper on the web page,” she mentioned to me. “You don’t simply knock it out. I’m fairly positive that if ladies writers had been promoted like a few of their male counterparts, we’d have extra ladies’s humorous writing on the market. How a lot all of us lengthy to select up a guide and snigger our socks off. Girls can do this for you: as in actual life, so on the web page.”

I first met Mavis on the Chelsea Arts Membership in London within the late 90s. The venue was her suggestion. I used to be questioning if one among her novels is perhaps out there for being optioned. As soon as we established that I had no instant plans (or assets) for a full-scale movie, Mavis advised me Daybreak French’s folks had been in contact and we let the topic lie. As did they. However she and I did change into buddies.

Yearly she would supply a distinct however humorous excuse as to precisely why she couldn’t attend my Christmas occasion – written neatly on playing cards bought from her many journeys to artwork galleries and museums with buddies.

However we met on different events. Upstairs within the bar at Waterstones, upstairs within the French Home in Soho and extra lately in her restful backyard, stuffed with horticultural splendour supplied by her daughter, Bella.

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Aunt Margaret’s Lover, 2003, by Mavis Cheek

She was born Mavis Wilson, in Wimbledon, south-west London, and introduced up along with her sister by their mom, Hilda (nee Lonsdale), who took manufacturing unit work to make ends meet, whereas their sharp-tongued grandmother taken care of them. Aside from when her father, John, made a fleeting look when she was seven, Mavis’s world revolved round ladies. “It was perceived that ladies had energy and males could possibly be unhealthy for you,” she mentioned in an interview in 2006.

She went to a secondary fashionable college, Whatley Avenue in Raynes Park, and joined the native Younger Communist League, the place on the age of 16 she met Chris Cheek, whom she married at 21 and divorced just a few years later. She shaped a bond, nevertheless, along with her mother-in-law, who inspired Mavis’s curiosity in fashionable artwork and literature.

After leaving college at 16 with none vital {qualifications}, Mavis took a job as a receptionist on the artwork publishers and gallery Editions Alecto, the place she handled artists together with David Hockney. It was there she started composing brief tales and poetry on a typewriter, in between answering the cellphone and greeting folks with famous enthusiasm.

This was 1964, and Mavis loved the most recent trend of miniskirts and multicoloured tights. Colleagues bear in mind her sparkly blue eyes, ardour for artwork and charismatic method. She met and lived for 15 years with the artist Basil Beattie, with whom she had her daughter.

Throughout this time, Mavis enrolled at Hillcroft School for Girls in Surbiton, the place she took a basic arts diploma, and joined an area author’s circle in Richmond. After the publication of Pause Between Acts and the separation from Basil in 1990 she continued writing novels whereas taking care of Bella.

In 2018 she and I taught a comedy novel course at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s nationwide writing centre within the Highlands, known as, reasonably ambitiously, “Discovering your humorous bone”. Mavis simply did all of the heavy lifting with plot, character and construction, whereas I tackled the humour workshop component with a number of props. The scholars fought over what number of one-on-one tutorials they might get with Mavis, on the premise of her fast evaluation of textual content and methods to problem-solve.

This ardour for mentorship and ease with college students – she additionally taught artistic writing to prisoners at Holloway in London and Erlestoke in Wiltshire – was influenced by her personal sense of being “ignored” and “designated thick by a really foolish training system”.

From 2010, through the interval she lived within the Wiltshire village of Aldbourne, Mavis spent a number of years working for the Marlborough literature pageant, with the intention of bringing glorious authors, and fewer celebrities, to new audiences.

In 2020 Mavis obtained the popularity award by Comedy Girls in Print, which acknowledges witty ladies writers who’ve contributed considerably throughout their lifetime.

She is survived by Bella and her sister Maggie.


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