THE TAMARISK TREE: My Quest for Liberty and Love by Dora Russell

THE TAMARISK TREE: My Quest for Liberty and Love

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KIRKUS REVIEW

If she has anything to say about it, Dora Black Russell Grace is not going to be known merely as the second wife of Bertrand Russell. Her autobiography presents her as a personage--even an intellect--in her own right, a woman of remarkable abilities and beliefs who, at the age of 27, resigned many of her own ambitions to marry the middle-aged philosopher who first struck her as being ""exactly like the Mad Hatter."" The marriage began as a noble experiment in shared responsibility, non-possessiveness, and non-interference with each other's sexual commitments. The young Dora--the eager, idealistic student, traveler, lover, feminist, mother, political campaigner--comes across with an unforced appeal that begins to sour as she tums to more controversial matters. She sees Russell as privately unable to shake off the Victorian constraints he opposed in principle: incurably condescending toward women, promiscuous through sexual doubt and inhibition rather than great libido, addicted to the patriarchal role thrust on him by the title, and--most unpardonable--glibly sanctimonious in his own account (Autobiography, Vol. II) of the demands Dora's eventual infidelity placed on his ""capacity for forgiveness and what may be called Christian love."" Failure to live up to principle is the cardinal sin in Dora's lexicon, and her sense of betrayal rankles in her description of Russell's decision to remarry and the custody battle over their two children. Her account breaks off with the divorce and the tragically abbreviated love affair that punctuated those painful days; her second marriage is the merest footnote. It is revealing that Dora's deepest unrealized ambition was to be an actress; the overwhelming effect of this fragmentary memoir is not so much self-justification as earnest dedication to an inspiring image of self. Principle, she would call it.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1975
Publisher: Putnam