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The Fountain Overflows

by Rebecca West


There is such a lot to digest in this very accomplished book, where at least some of the characters are based on Ms West (born Cicily Fairfield) and her family.

I don’t think there would be any account that would make Ms West’s father (Piers Aubrey in the book, Ms West is Rose) seem anything but an awful person. In both real life and in this novel, he abandons the family, after being the cause of a lot of their extreme poverty. In the book anyway, Mother seems determined to look on the bright side of life, to the point of foolishness and by the end of the book I wanted to shake her really hard. However, there was a twist at the end, which I really enjoyed.

The book is dedicated to West’s sister Letitia, who is the model for Cordelia. The swipes at Cordelia become extremely repetitive and after reading Letititia’s Wikipedia page, I can’t help wondering if they were motivated by jealousy. If that is so, that is very sad as West’s literary gifts are so remarkable. Understandably Letitia didn’t like this book.

The most enjoyable passage for me was Rose & her twin sister Mary’s first journey in a motor car. The description was just so vivid and witty! (it would have been quicker for the girls to walk!) But throughout the book there was plenty to keep one reading, even if this one sometimes became exasperated with the characters, I don’t mind being exasperated for a family and large caste of characters who are so vividly realised.

Definitely recommended.

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