ANTONIA WHITE by Susan Chitty


Vol. I, Diaries 1926-1957
edited by
Age Range: 1899 - 1980
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 Antonia White (1899-1980), author of four autobiographical novels (Frost in May, 1933, etc.) and unlikely heroine of the feminist movement, described the period when these diaries begin as ``chaos, misery, breakdown, analysis, divorce''--although the entries conclude with one of the happiest periods of her life. Chitty (That Singular Person Called Lear, 1988, etc.), her daughter, on whose defects White often dwelt, is the unflinching editor of what seems almost an act of contrition for her mother. Certified insane at age 22, White found refuge from madness in analysis, love affairs, and religion, returning to her Catholic faith during a lesbian affair and finding comfort in it for the rest of her life. The diaries served as a confidante to which White could recite inventories of her moods, obsessions, and failures; anatomies of characters and relationships; and confessions of her sloth, jealousy, and inability to love or to inspire love in men, women, and even her children. As revealed here, Lydall, the less problematic child, entitled her memoir of her mother Nothing to Forgive; Susan, the older and illegitimate child, also suffered a nervous collapse at age 22, attempted suicide, and, after briefly finding refuge with her mother, rejected her, excluding her from her marriage and her own children, refusing to communicate for five torturous years. White's pain and isolation were intensified by the betrayal of her analyst, who married her ex-husband, and complicated by several people who plagued her--one a fan who sent money and several letters a day before turning on her, another an actress who successfully sued her for libel because of an accidental similarity to a fictional character. The diary does end on an upbeat note: ``Think about Work, my good woman, not fancy whims.'' Fascinating not for what it reveals about White's world (which she shared with Virginia Woolf and Graham Greene, who appears briefly), but for the guileless revelations of a troubled if functioning author inventing her life. (Eight pages of b&w photos- -not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-670-83970-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1992