Rebecca West: A Modern Sibyl
A stunning portrait of an extraordinary author.
It begins with a portrait that attempts to evoke the living person in all her dimensions.
It concludes with an interview with one of her favourite secretaries, Elizabeth Leyshon, who eluded him in the 1990s but provided new insights into her employer’s character for this book.
As early as 1917, she understood where the world was headed and realized that the revolution in Russia held out false hope.
Because she took this view as a socialist, those on the left scorned her as an apostate, whereas she understood that Communism would result in a disaster for the British left.
Rollyson portrays West’s most intimate aspects as depicted by those who were close to her.
Her relationship with H.G. Wells, a married man, underlined a large part of her life, particularly with the birth of their son, Anthony.
Anthony, having been born out of wedlock, was unable to refer to his parents as a normal child would.
Growing up, this anomaly triggered the onset of a series of frictional outbursts, some so severe, that West’s reputation was put on the line.
The mother and son relationship between herself and Anthony then went on to underpin much of West’s later life.
West formed a friendship with Henry Andrews, a banker, with whom she spent many hours discussing the situation she found herself in.
She later married Henry and they stayed together until his death. Suffering from various ailments did not stop West from writing.
Whether in hospital or almost at her own death bed, she carried on writing.
Rebecca West: A Modern Sibyl provides a refreshing, engaging and spirited account of one of the world’s major writers.
Praise for Carl Rollyson
‘Meticulous narrative’ – New York Times Book Review
‘Recommended for both lay readers and scholars’ – Library Journal
Carl Rollyson is a writer whose biographies include Beautiful Exile: The Life of Martha Gellhorn, Lillian Hellman: Her Life and Legend and Marie Curie: Honesty in Science. A well-known scholar of biography, he has also published Reading Biography, Essays in Biography, Lives of the Novelists, and British Biography: A Reader.