Books by Elaine Feinstein

Elaine Feinstein was born in Liverpool, brought up in Leicester, and educated at Newnham College, Cambridge. She has worked as a University Lecturer, a subeditor, and a free-lance journalist. Since 1980 she has lived as a full-time writer . In the same ye

Released: March 20, 2006

"A window to a dazzling lost age."
Thoroughly engaging biography of the gloriously knotty Russian poet, by British poet, novelist and biographer Feinstein (Pushkin, 1999, etc.). Read full book review >
PUSHKIN by Elaine Feinstein
Released: May 26, 1999

An accessible biography that emphasizes the contradictions in Pushkin's personality and how they contributed to his early death. In this bicentennial year of Pushkin's birthe, the author establishes herself as a good synthesizer. While Feinstein's (Lawrence and the Women: The Intimate Life of D.H. Lawrence, 1993) biography of Russia's great literary figure is up-to-date on the latest research, it will serve as a readable and reliable English-language biography for the general public rather than a groundbreaking study for literary critics. Feinstein presents Pushkin's life chronologically, from his birth and school days to his undoing in a dramatic duel and painful death. Chapters are concise and predictable. An introductory account of Russian imperial history falls into the trap of excessive shorthand, which leads to empty remarks such as the following about Peter the Great: he "unquestionably wanted to make Russia great." From the start, Feinstein focuses on the juxtapositions within Pushkin's personality and his various situations in life: his perception of himself as ugly and his pride in his African ancestry; his liberal political views and his unsolicited role as the tsar's pet poet; his inheritance of his father's love of gossip and society and his need for solitude for work; and his marriage to the beautiful young wife whose flirtations (if not infidelity) led to an eruption of Pushkin's violent temper and the fatal duel that caused his death. For the general reader, Feinstein conveys some of the social complexity of Pushkin's era and life at the royal court. She also makes a particular effort to make Pushkin's works accessible and understandable in chapters that cover his most productive periods, offering excerpts to illustrate Pushkin's creative genius. Feinstein's Pushkin is a far more conventional biography than Serena Vitale's recent Pushkin's Button, with its marked imaginative flair and foundation of original research. But for the general reader with no knowledge of Russian, it offers a solid introduction to this literary giant. (8 b&w illustrations) Read full book review >
Released: March 17, 1993

With a rich idea satisfyingly carried out, novelist/biographer Feinstein (All You Need, 1990, etc.) focuses on the erotic life of D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930). Curiously pagan yet puritanical, Lawrence, Feinstein explains, remained a virgin until his 23rd year and later assumed a strange stance in print—that woman was the sexual servant of man and should not be brought to orgasm during love-play, and that exciting the clitoris was a ``lesbian'' practice not to be allowed by a proud male. Nonetheless, he wrote about sex with a lyrical flair and frankness unmatched in English literature. He was misunderstood, however, since although the object of his groundbreaking Lady Chatterley's Lover was to celebrate tenderness between lovers, not greasy sex, Lady Chatterley followed his earlier The Rainbow in being publicly vilified and banned. Feinstein looks into the love ties between the nonadulterous Lawrence and all the women in his life. The writer, she says, hated his coal-miner father for being beastly to his mother, and drew him savagely in Sons and Lovers, but then later came round to his father's view, feeling that in a robust marriage, such as his own with Frieda von Richthofen, he should imitate his father and wipe up the floor with Frieda regularly. Six years older than Lawrence and the married mother of three children, Frieda gave up her family to run off with the young writer. But to Lawrence, any woman who befriended him was fair game for his pen, and he alienated many with his deeply dismissive or poisonous portraits. A typical Lawrence moment: He dusts some cups and saucers with a poker, then says, ``Beware, Frieda, if you ever talk to me like that again, it will not be the tea things I smash but your head.'' Not much new, but smartly joined together. (Sixteen pages of b&w photos—not seen.) Read full book review >

A breathless but inconclusive whirl through Thatcher's England, by acclaimed British writer and poet Feinstein (Mother's Girl, The Shadow Master). When husband Brian, accused of fraud, is sent to jail, poor Nell is not only stunned by the news—she seems to have lived the most self-absorbed of lives—but must also look for a home and a job to support her and teen-age daughter Becky. And 15 years of suburban isolation have ill-prepared Nell for the realities of 1980's London when she and Becky move there. Though old college chums from Cambridge try to help, they are more busy promoting themselves and their causes. Nell first works for a radical-feminist art group, then joins the BBC, and—despite a little guilt—moves on to work with media figure Theo, who becomes both her lover and boss. It's all very stimulating, and Nell feels appropriately good about her personal growth, but even Nell has occasionally to take notice of others. Daughter Becky, unhappy, attempts suicide, and Nell learns that husband Brian was probably framed by a drug-dealing tycoon of her acquaintance. Cousin Michael, despised for being a man of commonsense, turns out to be not only helpful in getting Brian released, but also to Nell's relief still appreciates the old pre-Thatcher values. Though glad to see Brian free, Nell is not so sure about getting back with him yet—and she's just begun to write poetry again after a 15-year hiatus. She may have all she needs—at least for the time being. Peopled with self-serving yuppies, writers and artists on the make, and a coterie of characters who are little more than mouthpieces for opinions, Feinstein's scattershot picture of contemporary Britain says nothing new, and the brave-woman-in-midlife-overcoming-adversity theme is equally stale. Disappointing. Read full book review >