Sunflower

Rebecca West, Author
Rebecca West, Author Viking Books $18.95 (276p) ISBN 978-0-670-81386-5
Reviewed on: 02/01/1987
Release date: 02/01/1987
Perhaps understandably, the distinguished novelist, journalist and woman-of-letters never completed this novel she wrote in the 1920s, an outright roman a clef based on her affairs with H. G. Wells and the newspaper tycoon Lord Beaverbrook. Sunflower is the name of the central character, a beautiful, rich actress externally unlike her creator but internally similar in some interesting ways, as Dame Rebecca's authorized biographer Victoria Glendinning makes wonderfully clear in an illuminating afterword. Sunflower's long affair with the Wells character, Lord Essingtona scandal in its time that only an avowed feminist of West's courage would darehad run its course. In its wake she forms a relationship with Francis Pitt (as West did with Beaverbrook), a most unsatisfactory liaison. The powerful public woman was deep within an ""eternally feminine'' one desiring marriage and family, home and security. Sunflower enacts these deep wishes, longing for what she cannot attain. As the affairs resolved nothing in life, the author entered psychoanalysis, and one can speculate that the novel's incompletion had much to do with her basic irresolution. As fiction, this is not altogether satisfactory, but it is nonetheless a striking study in the relation of art and life, autobiography and imagination, fact and fantasy. (February)
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