California's Daughter: Gertrude Atherton and Her Times

Emily Wortis Leider, Author Stanford University Press $73 (428p) ISBN 978-0-8047-1820-2
Now largely forgotten, novelist and short story writer Atherton (1857-1948) at the height of her popularity often was ranked with Edith Wharton. Her typical California heroine--icily beautiful, sensuous, self-reliant, ambitious, nobody's fool--appealed to women seeking an identity based on their own needs and talents. Although she wrote a suffragist novel and advocated women's independence, the San Francisco-born adventurer who lived in London, Berlin, the West Indies and Greece does not make an ideal role model for today's feminists. Snobbery, worship of power, narcissism and hunger for approval were flaws of a novelist whom Gertrude Stein befriended, Ambrose Bierce yearned for, and who believed herself to be a reincarnation of the Greek beauty Aspasia, consort of Pericles. In a colorful, penetrating biography, freelance book critic Leider measures the melodrama of Atherton's life against the contradictory impulses of her art. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 428 pages - 978-0-8047-2219-3
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