When I started writing this blog last year, one of the first contacts I had was from David Hyde, who is a relative of the Virago author Ivy Low Litvinov. David had read some comments I had made about her work on LibraryThing, specifically that I wished that someone would reprint the two works she published under her maiden name, Ivy Low: “Growing Pains” and “The Questing Beast”.


Ivy seems to have lived a fascinating life: born in 1889 in London, she worked in an insurance company while writing her first novel “Growing Pains”. This, and the follow-up, “The Questing Beast” were autobiographical novels telling of her growing up, office life and a frank (for the time) account of female sexual attitudes. Her life changed when she met the Russian revolutionary exile, Maxim Litvinov, and they were married in 1916. They had two children and then in 1918 Maxim went back to his home country, followed by Ivy and the family a couple of years later.

Maxim had a long political career in Russia, surviving the purges, and Ivy made her life there with him. She continued to write, producing a detective story called His Masters Voice in 1930, and also working on short stories later published by  Virago, as well as doing translation work. When Maxim died in 1951 Ivy stayed on in Russia for a while before returning to England permanently in the 1970s, where she died in 1977.

In her early years Ivy mixed in literary circles, with friends such as D.H. Lawrence, Viola Meynell and Virago author Catherine Carswell. In fact, Carswell’s son John Carswell produced a biography of Ivy called “The Exile”, which is well worth tracking down.


I’ve read both of Ivy’s Virago books and loved them very much. There is one particular short story in the “She Knew She Was Right” volume which very touchingly fictionalises her meeting and courtship with Maxim; and the detective novel is a great read too. So I was bemoaning the fact that no-one will reprint her early novels, when David kindly pointed me to his excellent site here, which has an e-book available of “The Questing Beast”.

Now, I must confess that I haven’t yet finished reading it, as I do find e-books a bit of a struggle – I don’t have an eReader of any sort and it’s not easy to snuggle up in bed with your pc…. However, what I’ve read so far has been engaging and enjoyable and I *will* read the whole book and do a proper review eventually – promise!

In the meantime, anyone interested in Ivy Litvinov’s work and life could do no better than visit David’s excellent site or track down the John Carswell book. Ivy’s Virago books are out of print but findable through the usual online sources and I recommend them both. Ivy was a fascinating woman with a fascinating life and her work deserves to be remembered.