A gripping new book has given a very candid look into the tumultuous marriages of five literary legends.
Carmela Ciuraru’s Lives of the Wives, released earlier this month, took a look at the complex relationships between writers and their significant other.
It focuses on some of the most prolific names of the 20th century, including Roald Dahl, Kingsley Amis and Kenneth Tynan.
The book has uncovered stories of misery behind closed doors, including infidelity, misogyny and sadomasochism, as well as emotional and physical abuse.
Here, FEMAIL reveals the worst fights revealed in the revealing reports.
Una Troubridge and ‘John’ Radclyffe Hall: ‘In her darkest moods, John lashed out at Una for marital incompetence’
Poet and author Marguerite Radclyffe Hall, alias John, is best known for her work The Well of Loneliness, which has been hailed as a seminal work in lesbian literature.
Independently wealthy from a sizeable inheritance, John was already in a relationship with Mabel Batten – a woman two decades her senior – when she met Una Troubridge.
But the book states, “John was enthusiastic about the pursuit of new sexual conquests, and she had a fondness for married women.”
An early red flag should have been that John initially admitted she had no interest in Una (pictured together) “beyond an occasional distraction.”
An early warning sign for Una should have been that John initially admitted that she had no interest in her “beyond an occasional distraction.”
But Una pursued her anyway, and the ensuing affair left John’s partner Mabel “depressed and suffering from insomnia.”
After committing to the partnership, Una herself noted that even in the early days, John was “intolerant” and had a “violent” temper that “was exhausted so quickly, and her remorse when she thought she had caused pain.” , so extreme. ‘
Una had hoped her own relationship with John would blossom after Mabel Batten’s death – but apparently she couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Possibly driven by guilt, John became “unreachable in her grief” and attempted to reach her former love through a medium.
Una continued to wait backstage to regain John’s attention, but admitted in a 1917 diary entry: “[John] very depressed and in a bad mood… Not a nice evening and I cried a lot after being left alone.’
The couple moved in together anyway after renting a flat in Knightsbridge, London, but couldn’t heal the rift.
Una was regularly criticized by her partner for her “marital incompetence,” and in one bizarre instance, she wrote, “We agreed the stew was a failure and I cried in John’s arms.”
Although she described her life with John as “not always easy,” Una was at her partner’s bedside when she died
Una, whose life revolved around serving John, was later diagnosed with fibroids – muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus.
She suffered life-threatening complications after an emergency hysterectomy and was hospitalized for more than a month.
Far from morphing into a loving caregiver, John found it “uncomfortable to be around her,” and her attention began to wander.
The prolific writer eventually embarked on an affair described as “a crush,” and Una found herself vying with a lover for John’s attention – just as she had done to Mabel Batten a few years earlier.
The book states that Una has become the third wheel in her own relationship, “who would endure any amount of humiliation to avoid being abandoned”.
Although she described her life with John as “not always easy,” Una was at her partner’s bedside when she died.
Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia: “Their union didn’t end stormy – it just stopped”
Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia were both novelists in their own right—but the perfect match on paper didn’t translate into a harmonious union in reality.
Elsa, whose most famous works include Arturo’s Island and History: The Novel, met Alberto at a dinner with friends.
Alberto, who explored issues of modern sexuality, social alienation and existentialism in his own works, was a well-known womanizer, but the couple’s relationship developed anyway and before they were soon married.
But the honeymoon didn’t last long.
The couple fought constantly, and Alberto himself admitted: “We were really a man and a woman in a very difficult, very personal relationship.”
Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia were both novelists in their own right—but the perfect match on paper didn’t translate into a harmonious union in reality
He revealed: “Our struggles had made us famous in our own world of artists and intellectuals.”
But in that relationship, Elsa seems to have been the aggressor for the most part, determined to “push his buttons.”
The book has revealed that she would take “the slightest opportunity to blame her husband for something that was absolutely not his fault.”
This included humiliation that went as far as deriding his sexual impotence in front of other people.
Alberto claimed he hadn’t experienced love with Elsa and described falling in love with someone romantically as “an existential disaster”.
He eventually broke away from his marriage and, while not officially taking a mistress, admitted to having had various “encounters.”
It seemed that the writing had been on the wall for some time, and the relationship between Elsa and Alberto fell apart.
There was “no stormy end to their union,” rather it “just broke up” without being formalized with a divorce.
Elaine Dundy and Kenneth Tynan: “As Elaine would later learn, to Ken hitting a woman was a form of foreplay, an urge he repressed early in their marriage.”
One of the most tumultuous relationships explored in the new book is that of Elaine Dundy and Kenneth Tynan.
Both were avid writers – Elaine’s Dud Avocado was their best-known literary success, with Ken making a name for himself as a theater critic.
But despite their common interests, their union was plagued with problems early on.
Just three years into their marriage, Ken told Elaine that he was bored with their sex life and poked fun at his wife for being “puritanical and bad in bed.”
The book states: “Almost from the beginning of their relationship, there were problems in the bedroom.
“As Elaine would later learn, hitting a woman was a form of foreplay for Ken, an urge he repressed early in their marriage.”
One of the most tumultuous relationships explored in the new book is that of Elaine Dundy and Kenneth Tynan
Ken, who described himself as a “spanking addict,” used sex as an excuse to engage in acts of dominance and cruelty toward his wife.
Despite her reluctant agreement to his demands in the bedroom, Ken, who “was a legend in his own mind,” also sought sexual pleasure elsewhere.
On one occasion, “Elaine went into the apartment to overhear Ken on the phone, who was clearly speaking to a lover.”
But it wasn’t just infidelity and sadomasochism that Elaine struggled with — Ken, too, frequently showed signs of emotional abuse in their already strained relationship.
Every time Elaine threatened to leave, he stood on the sill of her living room window and threatened to jump.
The new book states: “Elaine knew two things for sure: he would never leap to his death, and she had to ‘save’ him every time.
Eventually she knew she had to break the vicious circle and ended up providing Ken with divorce papers – but that only added fuel to the fire.
Under the pretext of wanting to say goodbye, Ken visited his wife a short time later.
But instead he launched a brutal physical attack. Speaking about the incident, Elaine said it left her “unconscious on the bathroom floor with two black eyes and a broken nose.”
The episode prompted her to seek a restraining order against Ken — and the two were finally able to live separate lives.
The former couple reconnected shortly before Ken’s death, where they were able to achieve some form of reconciliation.
Carmela Ciuraru’s Lives of the Wives is available from Harper Collins for $25.60
Elizabeth Jane Howard and Kingsley Amis: “Her autonomy was tolerated so long as it did not interfere with her husband’s needs, which was almost always the case”
Elizabeth Jane Howard, who mostly called herself Jane, should have known she was putting herself in a difficult situation when she began an affair with married writer Kingsley Amis.
Jane, who was the author of 12 novels including the best-selling series The Cazalet Chronicles, was a well-known literary figure in her own right.
But she couldn’t resist Kingsley – a novelist, poet, critic and teacher – after a chance meeting at a literary festival in Cheltenham, England.
The married writer warned his new lover at the time: “If it comes out I’m going to blackmail you – I want you to know that.”
But she wasn’t deterred and the pair exchanged dozens of letters under pseudonyms before eventually renting an apartment together – although neither was fully separated from their partners at the time.
Kingsley’s wife eventually left him and Jane had to navigate her new role as stepmother to his three children.
Their marriage was “harmonious, largely because Jane met Kingsley’s wishes.”
But Kingsley, who has been described as “a man who lived for adultery,” couldn’t suppress his misogyny for very long — and the book wasn’t shy about emphasizing it.
“Kingsley thought women were for fucking and for cooking,” Jane once said. “He stopped wanting to fuck because if you’re really really drunk all the time, you can’t do it anymore.”
Jane’s self-esteem steadily declined over the course of their relationship. She was “made invisible” and “her autonomy was tolerated so long as it did not interfere with her husband’s needs”.
Elizabeth Jane Howard, who mostly called herself Jane, should have known she was putting herself in a difficult situation when she began an affair with married writer Kingsley Amis
She believed Kingsley had indulged in affairs, but she had no real proof of it — and eventually the couple went through a very acrimonious breakup.
Jane announced one day that she was leaving to visit a health farm – but never returned to the apartment.
Instead, she sent a note through a lawyer outlining her intention to end their relationship.
In the months that followed, Kingsley told a friend: “[Jane is] with nobody, just walked away. She did it partly to punish me for not wanting to fuck her anymore and partly because she realized I didn’t like her very much.’
And according to the book, he told people that meeting her was the worst thing that ever happened to him.
Patricia Neal and Roald Dahl: Over the course of their 30-year marriage, Roald has only said “I love you” three times
American actress Patricia Neal entered her marriage with open eyes to children’s author Roald Dahl, who wrote classics like The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The book states: “Even in the early days of their relationship, Patricia knew that her future husband “seemed to feel that he had the right to be terrible and that no one should dare to challenge him.”
He has been described as “rude, argumentative and arrogant… with a vicious misogynistic streak”.
American actress Patricia Neal entered her marriage with open eyes to children’s author Roald Dahl, who wrote classics like The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Many thought that he envied his wife’s success, ambition and the relationship she had with her close friends.
And although Roald brought so much joy to the children through his books, his marriage was seemingly joyless.
Less than eight months after tying the knot, he asked for a divorce for the first time – but the couple moved on.
Over the course of his 30-year marriage to Patricia, he said “I love you” just three times and “reportedly found her nudity repulsive.”
But it only got worse after Patricia had a stroke.
During her recovery, Roald became a “bully, tormentor and protector and wife patient, warrior and victim”.
Over the course of his thirty-year marriage to Patricia, he said “I love you” just three times and reportedly found “her nudity repulsive.”
When his wife discussed suicide, Roald seemed to encourage her, telling her, “We have knives that are good for you, and there are my razor blades. Or you lock yourself in the car and start the engine.”
And he was always “criticizing [Patricia’s] so-called shortcomings – they were accused of black whims, selfishness, intellectual laziness.’
Adding to the already tense martial mix, Roald wrote flirtatious letters and had affairs with a handful of women, even after his wife’s stroke.
His daughter Tessa, who was then a teenager and suffering from an eating disorder and drug addiction, once overheard her father talking on the phone to one of his mistresses.
She confronted him about the affair – and he quickly lashed out at the boy.
According to her account, he said: “You’ve always been a nuisance, you’ve always been a nosy little bitch. I want you out of this damn house now.”
Patricia and Roald eventually divorced. Before his death, there was some kind of reconciliation, and at the end of her memoirs, Patricia wrote a generous donation to her former husband.
Carmela Ciuraru’s Lives of the Wives was released on February 7th and is currently available from Harper Collins for $25.60.