A Well Full of Leaves, Elizabeth Myers

£16.00

Author Elizabeth Myers Published by Persephone Books Ltd ISBN 9781910263334 EAN 9781910263334 Bic Code Cover Paperback

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SKU: 9781910263334 Category: Tags: , , ,

Description

A Well Full of Leaves is about a family of four children growing up somewhere in the north of England, with an utterly vile mother who is cruel to her children, self-centred, and deplorable.

It isn’t everyone who has a mother like ours. She was a specialist whose specialities never touched the kind, the gentle, or the constructive. She was at her best when she was toppling the entire scene. All her dislike of us and the world in general was extended into whatever she was doing. Under her hands soapsuds were angry, clothes sneered, steam menaced, crockery raved…

The book is saying, rather like Dorothy Canfield Fisher in The Home-maker (1924), PB no. 7, that without nurturing and kindness, a child’s growth is stunted. The rather coy 1943 subtitle to A Well Full of Leaves was A Story of Happiness but we have abandoned this because it has such an old-fashioned ring and indeed we would want to substitute A Story of Unhappiness; because each of the four children is inevitably damaged in some way. Because the novel describes the struggles of a young girl who eventually succumbs to tuberculosis, it is in part autobiographical – auto-fiction years before the term was invented. Written in a strikingly adventurous style, it divided critical opinion from the beginning: the Saturday Review of Literature commented that ‘Myers possesses that extraordinary and unaccountable thing that we sometimes call genius’, but the New York Times described it as ‘unwittingly burlesque’. Everyone, however, admired Elizabeth Myers’s descriptions of the natural world, which are truly unforgettable. She writes with a purity – an honesty, if you like – that is surprisingly rare.

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