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The Fountain Overflows (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (December 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170342
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170342
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Rebecca West was one of the giants and will have a lasting place in English literature. No one in this century wrote more dazzling prose, or had more wit, or looked at the intricacies of human character and the ways of the world more intelligently." —William Shawn

"A real Dickensian Christmas pudding of a book-full of incident, full of family delights, full of parties and partings, strange bits of London, the lobby of the House of Commons, a classic murder with portraits of the murderer, the murderee and a couple of innocent bystanders, bill collectors, kitchen fires, good food, and a considerable quota of ghosts. West’s is a world that is a delight to enter and to live in, warm and vital, and constantly entertaining." —Elizabeth Janeway, The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Rebecca West (1892-1983) was born Cicily Isabel Fairfield, the youngest of three daughters of Charles Fairfield, a journalist in London, and Isabel Mackenzie, a talented pianist who supported her family by giving music lessons. Fairfield was a brilliant storyteller who entertained his daughters with tales of wild adventures in America and Australia, but he was moody and unreliable, and in 1901 he left his wife and children to go to Sierra Leone, where he hoped to start a pharmaceutical plant. The plan failed, and he returned to London, though not to his family, dying when Cicily was fourteen. Inspired by such stars of the stage as Sarah Bernhardt and Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Cicily hoped to become an actress, and in 1910 she enrolled in the Academy of Dramatic Art. Soon, however, she abandoned her theatrical ambitions and joined the staff of the feminist journalThe Freewoman, for which she began to write regularly under the name of Rebecca West (adopted after playing that character in a performance of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm). Among Rebecca West’s protean accomplishments are critical studies of two writers she deeply admired, Henry James and D.H. Lawrence;Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941), a vast work about pre-World War II Yugoslavia that combines history, political analysis, and vivid descriptions of travel; The Meaning of Treason (1947); and several novels, beginning with The Return of the Soldier (1918) and including The Fountain Overflows(1956), which is closely modeled on the events of her own childhood.

Andrea Barrett is the author of five novels, most recently The Voyage of the Narwhal, and two collections of short fiction, Ship Fever, which received the 1996 National Book Award, andServants of the Map. A MacArthur Fellow, she was also a Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

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Customer Reviews

I had read other novels by this writer but I found this one very slow moving and a bit depressing.
Gillian Clemson
I loved this book--I had heard about Rebecca West and decided I wanted to read something of hers--this seemed a perfect starting point.
Amazon Customer
This is how language should be used...clear and concise but also able to convey atmosphere and emotions.
Dana Keish

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Alison on January 20, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is one of my favorite print books. I've read it many times in the last 40 years or so. I'm very happy to have it available for the kindle (along with the sequels, This Real Night and Cousin Rosamund.) Plot - a delightful lively family is living in London at the turn (or so ) of the century. The mother is a famous pianist, retired, teaching her two daughters the piano. Her eldest daughter is not a musician but mistakenly works hard at her violin. Then a shocking murder affects their lives. The characterizations, from Piers the father to Clare the mother to Kate the cook-general is so well done. highly recommended!
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Dana Keish on August 15, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had heard of author Rebecca West, mainly as the young woman who had a long term affair with a much older H.G. Wells and produced a child out of wedlock, back when things like this were considered shocking. I stumbled across a copy of this book and decided it might make an interesting read.
I never imagined that I had found a true classic, a book that uses the English language to a degree unsurpassed by any other author I have ever read. The story of is simple, that of a down on their luck family, living in London during the early 1900's. Their trials and tribulations are faithfully described, as are the multitude of characters they befriend. Actually to describe the plot, one might assume that not much really happens and to be honest, the plot is not the main attribute of this novel. But the language! I have often thought that I would some day like to write a novel but after reading this book, I would not even attempt it! This is how language should be used...clear and concise but also able to convey atmosphere and emotions. Page after page of luscious words, all combining together to create an unforgettable reading experience. If, like me, you wanted to read more, please note that the sequel, This Real Night is almost as good. A third book, Cousin Rosamund is much weaker since it was not completed at the time of the author's death.
Please do yourself a favor and read this book. I think this ranks with Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights as books which define the best that the English language can offer.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on January 21, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rebecca West's THE FOUNTAIN OVERFLOWS, published in 1956, is one of the last great British modernist novels. Usually overlooked on modernism course syllabi in favor of West's shorter (but not as profound) THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER, THE FOUNTAIN OVERFLOWS is an exceptionally funny and evocative portrait of a shabby-genteel family of thinkers and artists at the turn of the century in a London suburb. The narrator, Rose Aubrey, and her twin sister Mary are young pianists; like their younger brother, the adored and otherwordly Richard Quin, a flautist, they are encouraged by their nervous and kindly mother, herself an accomplished musician in her youth. (The musical inadequacies of the eldest daughter, Cordelia, form the longest running joke in the novel--and eventually its greatest emotional payoff.) They live practically hand-to-mouth given their unending state of destitution wrought upon them by their handsome and mercurial father, who loves his family but cannot provide a stable life for them. Yet despite their poverty the family's life is never shown to be anything less than magical, given the gifts and talents the parents have for seeing the world always as a wondrous place. This sense of the ordinary transformed into the extraordinary, the book's great theme, is mirrored both in West's gorgeously descriptive prose and in the family's regular encounters with the supernatural: ghosts, telepathy, and poltergeists play important parts in the novel. The novel is episodic, in the way of its comic antecedents, such as Fielding, early Dickens, and Elizabeth Gaskell's CRANFORD. Still, West's sense of a strong narrative to the family's fortunes keeps you in narrative suspense nonetheless: as you read it you cannot wait to see what happens to the family next.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have been reading, reading, reading for fifty plus years. Oddly I don't dream about books, but this one was an exception. The character Cordelia came to haunt my sleep, lively and unforgettable. A vidid, surprising, unpredictable, eccentric, and thoroughly original work. Seek it out.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is my very favorite book in the world, and Rebecca West never did quite so well again. An astonishing cast of characters, seen with a child's sensitivity and belief in the magical in everyday life. The only thing better than the family members are the minor characters: Mr. Morpurgo, Nancy and her aunt, Cordelia's violin teacher.This book acknowledges the complexities of all human beings.A father who makes his children elaborate individual dollhouses and tells them stories about them, but gambles away all their money and abandons them, a mother who appears half-cracked to casual acquaintances but is a gifted pianist and the one who holds her family together and provides a haven for the huge cast of fascinating strangers who cross her path, battered by life. An enormously likable child narrator, but the mother is the true heroine of this story, and how often does that happen?
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. DAVIDSON on January 9, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The header says it all. If pressed, I will have to admit that this is my absolute favorite novel of all time. There is something so haunting and so human and so memorable about this book, I can't stay away from it--I must have read it 20 times, and I never grow tired of it.
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