THE YOUNG REBECCA: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-17 by Rebecca West

THE YOUNG REBECCA: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-17

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Book reviews, journalism, and one short story from West's early freelance days--gathered to reflect her feminist and socialist fervor (which is on redundant display), but more noteworthy for the flinty splendor of her prose. First comes a group of book reviews and letters, 1911-13, from The Freewoman and The New Freewoman: West assails Mrs. Humphry Ward (""I hurl my thunderbolts at the woman who will not think""), Arnold Bennett (""the child among authors of today""), future lover H. G. Wells, and above all that anti-feminist nemesis Strindberg; she hails Granville-Barker (""Thought bubbles from him like laughter from a healthy child""); and, even when addressing forgotten material, she's eloquent. (""The baldness and badness of popular novels is as touching as the ugliness of a cherished rag-doll."") Next--pieces from The Clarion, 1912-13, some of them urging women on to selfishness and sensuality but most of them dealing with the women's suffrage movement and its paradoxical relationship to the Labour Party and socialism: the Party is assaulted for its failure to support Votes for Women; Mrs. Pankhurst's W.S.P.U. is scolded (reluctantly) for its failure to work from a socialist base, for its middle-class-ness. (Marcus' introductory material here is only half-helpful for context; especially lacking is background on West's precursors in the rhetoric of socialist-based suffrage--e.g., Richard and Sylvia Pankhurst.) And finally, after a 1933 portrait of Mrs. P. and the story ""Indissoluble Matrimony"" (both rather disappointing), there are more spirited book reviews, from the Daily News--including a brief piece on The Good Soldier (""prose that falls on the page like sunlight"")--plus miscellaneous short essays. Undeniably, West is a paradigmatic role-model for feminists--angry, yet witty, fiercely logical yet warm. But for most readers this uneven, repetitious collection (which represents merely half of her 1911-17 output) will be browse-worthy on non-political terms--if only for such opening sentences as ""Miss Ellen Kay is a woman and a neutral, and she contrives to be equally offensive in both capacities"" or. . . ""There are two kinds of historical novel: the dietetic and the dressy.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Viking