REBECCA WEST: This Is What Matters by Victoria Glendinning

REBECCA WEST: This Is What Matters

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A chatty, enjoyable biography by the author of Elizabeth Bowen (1978), Edith Sitwell (1981), and Vita (Sackville-West, 1983). The subtitle claims that what is important about Dame West is the literary legacy she has left us. But once again, as in Glendinning's biography of Edith Sitwell, the author is really more interested in the woman than the work. Her treatment of the important writings, especially Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, is competent, but has little of the vigor she brings to West's emotional life. Glendinning prefaces her biography with a discussion of the sexist attitude of the great men (Jung and H.G. Wells) of West's time who felt that talented women should be the inspiration for male genius--that women should dwell in the realm of the personal and men in the realm of the abstract. This view, which West herself often held, is, Glendinning writes, ""extremely painful."" But while shaking her head at such attitudes, Glendinning's approach to her subject makes her something of a collaborator in them. It is West's emotional development and her relationships with people that Glendinning explores with great sensitivity: the pain the young West felt when her parents separated; her difficult relationship with Wells; her much publicized and tortured feud with her son Anthony. Glendinning's light style becomes silly sometimes. When briefly discussing West's religious views, the biographer concludes, ""She found [God] no more satisfactory than any of the other males with whom she had an intimate relationship."" An extremely readable, not particularly profound introduction to the life of Rebecca West.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1987
Publisher: Knopf