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Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay Paperback – Sep 2002


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Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay + Poems: Edna St Vincent Millay (Everyman Library) + Collected Sonnets
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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade; Reprint edition (Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760815
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Anne McHardy on 7 Jun 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St Vincent Millay,' by Nancy Milford is a wonderful biography. It follows the life of one of America's greatest twentieth century poets from the childhood of her mother, who was also a fascinating woman, to Edna's death in 1950. Milford allows the reader to get to know Edna, or Vincent as she was known to those close to her, gradually; as one does a person in real life. She writes almost like an observer, adding very little of her own opinions, allowing the reader to form her/his own feelings about Edna as a person and as a poet. Many of her poems are included in the book and the photographs of Edna, her family and others, who were significant in her life, are beautiful.
Edna was a complex character. Secure in her great talent, but so very insecure in most other areas of her life. Her difficult childhood, her time at Vassar, her relationships with family, friends and lovers and her difficulties later in life make for a life story that is completely irrestible to people who enjoy good biographical writing, whether one likes poetry or not.
'Savage Beauty' is one of the best biographies I have read in years. I couldn't put it down, nor can I stop thinking about Edna and her strange life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Writearound on 25 Jun 2011
Format: Paperback
Painstaking and thoroughly researched biography of an intriguing and passionate woman who probably now doesn't get the recognition she deserves, probably because she was overly popular in the thirties and forties. The words celebrity and in some parts of the US notorious are not words we associate with the word poet, usually they are seen as a contradiction in terms. However if Byron could be viewed as a superstar in his day as the 'bad, mad and dangerous to know' poet I think Edna St Vincent Millay somehow managed to be a woman superstar poet of her era despite or because of her bisexuality, drinking and political views. Yet in the end, as with Byron, it is the poems that still speak in a clear voice of something beyond all the razzmatazz and goes to the heart of what a great poet can do, speak to the universal heart and longings of a society and say something true abut what it means to be human.
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Her early life was not easy - living in what would now be thought of as poverty in a house devoid of most comforts, minus a feckless father who was thrown out when she was young, and for much of the time being alone with two young sisters while her mother was away earning money by nursing. Her poetic talents brought her to the notice of a wealthy benefactress, who saw her through three years at Vassar, after which, with some reputation as a poet, she began to live her own rather chaotic life. She was not particularly beautiful, but something about her attracted and enslaved both men and women. She was selfish, hedonistic, bisexual and addictive, and drank so much as to induce cirrhosis of the liver in her last years. Essentially, she had a lot of fun, living a high life she couldn't really afford in various parts of the world. She married Eugene Boissevant, a fairly affluent businessman, who tolerated her various affairs, even being friends with her lovers, and effectively devoted himself entirely to looking after her and her career.

The middle part of her life consisted of her growing reputation as a poet and the gay social world in which she lived. After about 40, her health began to decline and her inspiration to fail, and her last few years make grim reading. Eugene died rapidly of lung cancer, and after living alone for about a year, she fell downstairs, probably drunk, and was found dead.

She had an almost passionate relationship with her mother, who showed literary gifts of her own, a largely difficult relationship with her sisters, and fortunately a good understanding with her publisher, who was prepared to help her financially in her later years when money became a problem.

This review does poor justice to a gripping, detailed, greatly researched and wonderfully written book, and skims over much of Millay's life. It gave me great pleasure to read. I recommend it strongly.
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A thoroughly researched and sensitively written biography of a fascinating and gifted poet who would fit well into 2014! Her personal life was a storm of intensity and multiple affairs with men and women. Enlivening!
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