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Rebecca West: Edith Sitwell: A Life [Paperback]

Victoria Glendinning
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Feb 1998
The award-winning author Victoria Glendinning was commissioned by Rebecca West herself to write a 'short' biography:she has achieved an exceptionally vivid and moving portrait of this remarkable woman. The story of Rebecca West,who lived from 1892 until 1983,is the story of a twentieth century women.As a teenager,she marched with the suffragettes; she had an affair with H G Wells and became an unmarried mother.A radical socialist in her youth and a passionate opponent of Communism in her later years,she won fame as a novelist,critic,travelk-writer and journalist.But her personal life was often as stormy and complex as her public life. In this sympathetic but clear-eyed biography,Victoria Glendinning tells a disturbing story that will evoke admiratrion and pity for an extraordinary woman.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (2 Feb 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857994744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857994742
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 12.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Victoria Glendinning is a freelance writer, well-known for her successful biographies and novels. She has won many prizes including the Whitbread Prize for Biography twice, the Duff Cooper Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. She is also President of English PEN and a Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London, but travels widely, particularly to Provence and south-west Ireland.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Biography of A Fascinating Woman 20 April 2012
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
For me, Rebecca West is one of the most underestimated women writers of the 20th century. Yes, not all her novels worked (I can't get through 'Harriet Hume') but at her best she was a wonderful creator of characters and plots; she was also a very fine journalist, and seems to have been a very interesting woman.

Glendinning brings West beautifully to life, from her turbulent childhood (with a charming but unreliable father who abandoned West's mother and West and her sisters - the family ended up moving to Edinburgh to be near maternal relatives), her attempts to become an actress and early successes in journalism, her passionate advocation of feminism and affair with the older, charming and unprepossessing H.G. Wells, her brave decision - even braver then than now - to become a single mother, and on to her growing successes as a writer and general cultural figure. Glendinning describes very well her various friendships, her love affairs (a disastrous one with Lord Beaverbrook, a happier one with writer John Gunther), her marriage to Henry Andrews, a banker (the marriage was a complicated one, happy in certain ways but not in others), her complicated relationships with her two sisters (putting Lettie, the older sister, into 'The Fountain Overflows' as Cordelia was not a kind action!), her increasingly difficult relationship with her son Anthony and her views on literature and the politics and culture of her time. West was active as a journalist, and there's some excellent material on her covering of the Nuremberg Trials, to take one example. West also, unlike many writers, stayed lively, sane and energetic into her old age, and reading about her as an older woman certainly gives one hope - she was able to enjoy life right up to her late eighties.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rebecca West, pioneer independent woman 20 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Victoria Glendinning provides a perceptive and sympathetic analysis of the making of a successful pioneer woman writer/reviewer/columnist
This is a great read for anyone especially feminists
First of the modernist sisters who did it for themselves
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book 24 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Victoria Glendinning has done a terrific job in researching her subject and writes wonderfully well.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced Biography of a Warped and Brilliant Person 30 Mar 2006
By PTR - Published on
I picked this book up as an introduction to West, having heard of her only by reputation and never read her work. Glendinning, who knew West, does a fine job of bringing out her genius, but does not shy away from her paranonia, vindictiveness, self-absorption and multiple other self-inflicted miseries.

While I can respect West for her courageous stand against communisim in general and Stalinism in particular (in a time when it was the epitome of gauche to be anti-communist), it seems to me that hers was, in the end, a terribly sad life, made that way her own choices and her refusal to re-evaluate those decisions later. Glendinning never records an instance in which West admitted that she was wrong or had wronged another.

Her horrible relationship with her son Antony is case in point. Should it have surprised her that a boy who was born out of wedlock in Edwardian times, and subsequently ignored and not even acknowledged by his mother, would grow up to resent her in some way? Clearly Antony took it too far, and should have gotten on with his life instead of making a career out of bashing his mother. But West never seemed able to own up to her role in making him what he became.

West seemed to live in a self-centric world, and come across in this book as curiously lacking in self-awareness. She claimed to be a free woman, yet was unable not to have a man in her life. This often led to her being terribly hurt, but she never seemed to learn the lesson. Both HG Wells and Lord Beaverbrook and evidently a host of other men used her for their sexual satisfaction, but while she lived her life with a stated low opinion of men, she never seemed to grasp why they used her or why she let them.

When she finally did marry, she experienced some happiness, but then grew bored. She never really understood the concept of unconditional love. Ultimately, it was all about her. She cheated on her husband with at least two separate affairs, then expressed hurt when it was learned that he'd done the same thing. His philandering was more extensive, but the frequency seems irrelevant when such conduct is introduced into the marriage relationship by both spouses.

As an old woman, she apparently began to question her conduct somewhat. But she repented of nothing. Is this being free? Authentic? Or foolish and prideful? Your ability to enjoy this telling of West's life will depend greatly on what you see as important in living the Good Life. I read it mostly for information, rather than inspiration, and in that aspect it is a fine biography.

The reader on these tapes did a fine job. My only complaint was when she would make an attempt at an American accent. She should not have bothered.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Genius, the Woman 18 Mar 2007
By L. Robertson - Published on
Glendinning's account is a trifle presumptuous at times, but only a trifle. And she gives an excellent account of a female genius feminist who in spite of her meteoric successes was tortured her entire life by her inability to access a simple womanly existence: And this by the inevitable culture driven inadequacy of the men around her.
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