was a prolific English literary star, producing a stream of essays, reviews, novels, and non-fiction journalism. In the 1920s she established herself as one of Britain's most influential critics, cultivating friendships with literary figures from George Bernard Shaw
to H. G. Wells
, with whom she began a torrid affair when she was 19. Her sweeping study of prewar Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
(1941), has been resurrected to some acclaim since the war in the Balkans. Beyond that, her literary reputation has never been elevated to the canon. Rollyson's exhaustive biography examines the strange life and the amazing output of an independent woman whom Wells called "Panther."
From Publishers Weekly
Sinclair Lewis once scoffed about West's exasperating son, Anthony, sired out of wedlock by H.G. Wells, that his parentage was "the only interesting thing in his life." The difficult, disloyal Anthony would spoil for Rebecca (1892-1983) the acclaim she earned for her fiction (The Return of the Soldier, The Fountain Overflows) and her vivid, in-depth reportage (Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, The Meaning of Treason). For the last 50 years of her life, her son was eager to exploit his Wellsian connection to promote himself. To Wells, the conception of Anthony was just another accident resulting from his often concurrent affairs. While West (Cicily Fairfield, her feminist pen name, that of an Ibsen heroine) was hidden away by Wells, literary insiders knew, and her life became more public as she became recognized as a writer. Growing up, Anthony was drawn to his celebrity father, and Rollyson returns again and again to West's cycles of recrimination and reconciliation with her son. The first biographer permitted to forage in her papers at Yale, Rollyson (Lillian Hellman) has been thorough in other research as well; however, the trivia of everyday life, sexual and social, is often overwhelming here. Despite the resetting from the British edition, he has apparently paraphrased so closely from West's diaries and other papers that he uses Briticisms (cosh, spanner) at odds with the rest of his prose. Illustrations not seen by PW.
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