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Journal of a Solitude Paperback


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Journal of a Solitude + The House by the Sea: A Journal + Plant Dreaming Deep
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 17, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393309282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393309287
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This journal is not only rich in the love of nature and the love of solitude. It is an honorable confession of the writer's faults, fears, sadness, and disappointments. . . . On the surface, Journal of a Solitude is a quiet book, but if you will read it carefully you will be aware of violent needs and a valiant warrior who has battled every inch of the way to a share of serenity. This is a beautiful book, wise and warm within its solitude.”

About the Author

A wonderfully prolific poet, novelist, memoirist, and journal-writer, May Sarton has always enjoyed an extremely wide and loyal readership. Though she considered poetry to be her life's work, it was her novels and journals that made her famous. Plant Dreaming Deep, a memoir published in 1968, tells the story of her decision at forty-five years old to buy a house in a small New Hampshire village and to live and write in it alone. Journal of a Solitude (1973), the first of a series of journals about her life in a different house on the Maine coast, brought her many new readers-particularly women-who identified with her efforts to carve out and describe a life of chosen solitude in all its rewards and contrary vicissitudes.

Sarton's journals chronicle the dailiness of the life of a woman artist. She struggles to establish a structure whereby she can both protect the time for creativity and stay in necessary touch with the world. The house must be orderly and aesthetically pleasing, the garden bountiful and beautiful. Animals provide companionship and demand care; music is both solace and inspiration. The state of the world is exhilarating and depressing. Friends and lovers are emotionally imperative and emotionally draining. Visitors and fan letters enrich her days, but solitude is necessary for the muse to appear. Though to her sorrow, major critical acclaim is denied her, the continuing expansion of her readership affirms her worth as a writer. She fears her openness about her love for women may have cost her some of that critical acclaim, but knows it is that very openness about her emotional life-its highs and lows-that gives her readers hope and encouragement. And as she grows older, Sarton does not shrink from describing the miseries of old age, even as she continues to find pleasure in the small things of life. It is Sarton's great achievement in these journals that she shares with her readers with such honesty and immediacy her joys and despairs, her failures and triumphs.

Sarton was born in Belgium in May 1914, three months before Germany invaded Belgium at the beginning of World War I. Leaving everything behind, her family emigrated to America when Sarton was four years old and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Much of Sarton's writing reflects both her European roots and her attachment to her New England upbringing. Instead of going to college (a circumstance she considered "a great piece of luck"), Sarton joined Eva Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre as an actress at seventeen, and founded her own theater company in the 1930s. She published sonnets in Poetry magazine as a very young woman, and her first book of poems, Encounter in April, was published in 1937. To support her writing, Sarton for a time lectured at colleges, where her striking and passionate personality gained her great success. Her first of many novels, The Single Hound, was published in 1938, and she continued to alternate publishing poetry and novels thereafter. Until World War II, Sarton traveled to Europe every year, where she met Virginia Woolf and became a friend of Elizabeth Bowen.

May Sarton is the author of seventeen books of poetry, twenty novels, and ten memoirs and journals. She received eighteen honorary degrees, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She died in 1996.


More About the Author

May Sarton is the pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton (May 3, 1912 - July 16, 1995), an American poet, novelist, and memoirist. Her parents were science historian George Sarton and his wife, the English artist Mabel Eleanor Elwes. In 1915, her family moved to Boston, Massachusetts. She went to school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and started theatre lessons in her late teens. In 1945 she met her partner for the next thirteen years, Judy Matlack, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They separated in 1956, when Sarton's father died and Sarton moved to Nelson, New Hampshire. Honey in the Hive (1988) is about their relationship. Sarton later moved to York, Maine. She died of breast cancer on July 16, 1995. She is buried in Nelson, New Hampshire.

Customer Reviews

This is a perfect venue for learning more about her and her contribution to literature.
busy woman
If this book speaks to you the first time, you must keep reading it at different times in your life or you will miss something.
CJ Ping
I do not recall how many times over the years that I have read this book...I find myself drawn to it again and again.
MartyL

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By gatazul@aol.com on June 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
I keep this book with me throughout my life. I first read it quite a few years ago, and felt it touch truths that I didn't dare go near previously. Thank you, Ms. Sarton, for sharing your world, for daring to articulate what really goes on in the mind. Everyone should give it a shot, and maybe another because its different each time I read her words. Sometimes I'm receptive, sometimes not; after all, we are all reading through our own lens.
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94 of 107 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Barnes on April 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Written over a period of twelve months, May Sarton's' Journal Of A Solitude' (1973) is an earnest meditation on life, living alone, romantic love, and the creative process.

Composed in diary form, the book was produced while Sarton was living alone in a small village in rural New Hampshire. But as her next published journal, 'The House By the Sea' will reveal, Sarton's New Hampshire home was right in the center of the village, making her claim to "solitude" rather specious, certainly relative.

By 1973, Sarton was fifty-eight years of age and an established novelist and poet who had known and corresponded with such literary luminaries as Virginia Woolf and Hilda Doolittle.

'Journal Of A Solitude' is a warm, touching, and very human book, which, after its successful publication, became the cornerstone upon which Sarton's uneasy reputation has settled. But 'Journal Of A Solitude' also reveals Sarton to have been something of an odd duck modestly dressed in the clothing, mores, and mannerisms of a gentile Belgian lady.

Sadly, what Sarton seems determined not to come to terms with is that she was a tepid, literal-minded poet as well as a less than first-rate literary novelist; this is important, because the lack of critical attention her work received ("What I have not had is the respect due what is now a considerable opus") is a constant theme of the book and source of tension.

As a result, "ornery" Sarton shifts continuously between states of creative over appraisal and damning self-recrimination. Sarton's quoted poems clearly reveal a lack of lyrical skill and an absence of any visionary power whatsoever.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
The first of Sarton's Jornals, this one introduces the readers to the players -- both human and animal -- that make return appearances in her subsequent journals. In these pages, Sarton provides us with a view of one who looks closely at the everyday. She examines larger themes as well creating a journal that speaks plainly of the seasons and the cycles of life.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
reading this book was like meditation for me. She is a wonderful writer. I keep her journals close to my bed. If I've had a particularly stressful day I will pick up her journal and start reading. Like a Matisse painting, her words are "mental rest for the weary."
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Seehorse72 on May 3, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're into reading memoirs, this is exceptional. Her clarity of thought and her ability to portray her feelings into words is unsurpassed, in my opinion. I enjoy her prose so very much. I can find myself relating to so many of her feelings and thoughts despite the difference of age and time. This is a great read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jo Singel on January 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
I read Journal of a Solitude shortly after giving birth to my first child. I was alone in a new neighborhood with few family and friends around me and felt completely estranged from my former life as a professional woman working in New York city. May Sarton's story - shared in such a real and heartfelt way - has always stayed with me. Where are the May Sarton's in today's world? She was an extraordinary woman who was able to connect with a broad audience of readers, through the authentic sharing of her thoughts, feelings and experiences. I miss her work but am thankful that she left behind a wonderful legacy.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
She's a person who's not afraid to touch the least glamorous aspects of our inner life! Absolutely captivating!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lois Henderson on December 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
How refreshing to find a work written by a woman who, though unafraid to state exactly who she is, nevertheless does not need to stand and SHOUT IT OUT! As a fellow lesbian and poet, I would like to commend May Sarton's journal both for its discretion and lack of temerity. To think that she wrote her most meaningful work several decades ago, yet one can so easily relate to it today! Her universality speaks for itself - I am sure that very few women will be unable to resist responding to her revelations, whatever their standpoint on sexuality. I just wish so very much that I could have had the privilege of corresponding with her.
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