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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
The Fountain Overflows (Virago Modern Classics)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 October 2012
One of the best books I've ever read, focussing on the shabby genteel Aubrey family, living in Edwardian London. Father is adored: he builds exquisite dolls' houses and tells the children of his own youth. But as narrator Rose observes
'Because I was his daughter I could not have known all of him, there was that continent in which I could not travel, the waste of time before I was born and he already existed. I could not have been a child with him, I could not have been with him and his brother when they knelt on the dry red beech-leaves, with their laughing faces pressed against the pulsing silken necks of their crouched and panting ponies, the tree trunks rising sharp silver above them to the blue October haze.'
Yet despite his intelligence as a newspaper editor, Father constantly speculates and keeps his family in penury.
It is Mother- a former concert pianist- who keeps the family together. Music forms a major part of the book, with Mary and Rose devoted to their piano practice. Elder sister Cordelia gives violin recitals but cannot see that she lacks true musical talent.
I was struck by West's ability to explain so clearly the difference between an 'eccentric' family (all but one of whom love their life) and the 'ordinary' folk around them.
'Constance lived among the kind of people which in those days were called 'common'. More fortunate children than ourselves might have called them poor, but we knew better, for most of them were no poorer than we were. They were people who live in ugly houses in ugly streets among neighbours who got drunk on Saturday nights, and did not read books or play music or go to picture galleries and who were unnecessarily rude to each other...We did not despise these people, we simply felt that they did not have as amusing a time as we did.'
Also of the difficulties the eccentric have in integrating:
'They were incapable of getting on terms with their fellow creatures on the plane where most of us find that easy. My mother could not dress herself to go out of her house tidily enough to avoid attracting hostile stares, she could not speak to strangers except with such naivete that they thought her a simpleton, or with such subtlety that they thought her mad. She was never much more negotiable than William Blake. My father was unable to abandon to the slightest degree his addiction to unpunctuality, swarthy and muttering scorn, and insolvency.'
Wonderful, wonderful book- do read it!
14 people found this helpful
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on 23 August 2017
An excellent novel of its time which I found completely absorbing.I think the characterisation is amazing and I very much enjoyed the social history.I didn't realise it is the first part of a trilogy .I am now starting the third part " Cousin Rosamund " and will be sorry when I've finished it.
One person found this helpful
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on 15 June 2017
A smashing read. Very different. I like the eccentric and rather fey nature of this family with the musical interests and talents of mother and children, their mixture of poverty and shabbiness with culture. I do have a leaning towards the recent past, ornate women's hats etc before tv and when even poor families kept a servant. Not too sure about the poltergeist, however, and the apparent supernatural presence.
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on 19 May 2016
I adored this book, my first Rebecca West. Family life, but what a family, what incredibly strong and unusual individuals? The fact that the narrator is a young girl is amazing, but it never becomes mawkish or childish. Still to read the next two in this series.
2 people found this helpful
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on 27 February 2017
A family of young siblings growing up in an impoverished Edwardian family of musical and creative eccentrics. Explores the nature of music, and of a young girl's ingenuous view of her parents' and other adults' lives, as well as those of her contemporaries. Weird touches of the supernatural don't quite fit in. Sequel is worth pursuing, too: This Real Night, followed by Cousin Rosamund
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on 31 October 2015
An delightful rememberance of childhood, music, and poverty (in a well to do family). Full of excellent descriptive pictures in words of a time long past. It makes one think how childhood has changed in the last 100 years.
Beware, the ending is sudden. At about 7/8ths near the end it ends!. The last bit is a chapter from the next book!
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on 25 May 2018
Recommended by Ann from The Chase as her favourite book. Doesn't disappoint at all. Condition average for 1959 as explained.
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on 6 October 2014
This is the third time i have bought this book as a gift to my friends. This is a truly wonderful stoery of a Bohemian family life by rebecca West. The children in the family are a delight in themselves.
eileen d.
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on 2 August 2017
I read this as a teenager, and loved it then. It is still a magnificent read, though I can now understand it far better. It lingers in ones mind in a way that few modern books do.
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on 24 September 2015
Fabulous story, exceptionally well written. I have ordered the other two books in this serie. Rebecca West is a true master in her use of language turning prose into poetry. Words do no justice to her sensitively tuned skills.
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