The Fountain Overflows (New York Review Books Classics)

The Fountain Overflows (New York Review Books Classics)


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The lives of the talented Aubrey children have long been clouded by their father's genius for instability, but his new job in the London suburbs promises, for a time at least, reprieve from scandal and the threat of ruin. Mrs. Aubrey, a former concert pianist, struggles to keep the family afloat, but then she is something of a high-strung eccentric herself, as is all too clear to her daughter Rose, through whose loving but sometimes cruel eyes events are seen. Still, living on the edge holds the promise of the unexpected, and the Aubreys, who encounter furious poltergeists, turn up hidden masterpieces, and come to the aid of a murderess, will find that they have adventure to spare.


In The Fountain Overflows, a 1957 best seller, Rebecca West transmuted her own volatile childhood into enduring art. This is an unvarnished but affectionate picture of an extraordinary family, in which a remarkable stylist and powerful intelligence surveys the elusive boundaries of childhood and adulthood, freedom and dependency, the ordinary and the occult.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590170342
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 12/10/2002
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Pages: 408
Sales rank: 471,599
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.88(d)

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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The Fountain Overflows 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
alwaysmlo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my all time favorite biographies. Rebecca West was a great idealist. This volume about her childhood shows her way of looking at the world, along the same lines of the opening pages of "To the Lighthouse". If you liked To the Lighthouse, you will like this book.
Oregonreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had some difficulty getting into this book. Although not strictly autobiographical, West has based the characters on her family. The story revolves around the fortunes of the Aubrey family. The narrator is Rose, one of the four children of Piers, a small time newspaper editor and pamphleteer, and Clare, formerly a concert pianist who gave up her career upon marriage. Rose struck me at first as another example of the peculiarly British fictional character, the very precocious child who patronizes and condescends to the adults around her. But as I continued, I began to realize that West had created Rose with an adult eye so that she could describe their failings and weaknesses of the others while at the same time loving them with a child's unquestioning love. She describes her father with the words "sneering" and "swaggering", while expressing her adoration. The mother is so sensitive that hearing music performed by one who is not gifted makes her physically ill and yet she is the strength in the family, holding them together through poverty and disappointment. I gradually became fond of them all and fascinated by their lives. My biggest disappointment was the ending, which ends abruptly, almost as if the narrator suddenly put her pen down and had no chance to continue.
NancyKay_Shapiro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An all time favorite book. I've read it over and over. It's a whole world.
nmhale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After a sleepy start, this book took hold of me and became one of my favorite Virago reads so far. The narrator, Rose, speaks in first person to tell us the story of her family history, and I was enchanted with her precocious voice from the start. However, West also writes with a style that is extremely detailed and evocative, which initially distanced me from the book a bit. When you're just getting used to the characters, and come upon long passages describing the country or their new house, it slows down the reading momentum. Nonetheless, the writing was lovely, and Rose had a way of mixing her descriptions with her child's imaginations and memories which was charming and kept my interest. I just didn't have a hard time putting this book down, at first. Then, once I knew all the characters and felt like a part of their family, I was drawn into their world and really did have a hard time putting the book down. The plot, like the novel, required some reading before it took hold in the mind. Basically, Rose and her family are poor artists. Her mother gave up a career as a pianist to be with her husband and raise a family, and all of her children have inherited her musical genius, except one. Her husband, who is artistic in his writing and speaking, has another problem which keeps bringing the family down - he likes to waste their money. Not just on gambling (although he does that, too) but on crazy speculations and idealistic political agendas and constantly losing his job. These various threads create a lot of interweaving plot threads, and it is all viewed through the eyes of Rose, who is a young girl in elementary school. She loves her mother and her father, and she sees his flaws but she sees his sparkling character, and she loves her parents for being the unique beings that they are. Because of her artistic temperament, Rose can accept her poverty because she has her art, and her sister Mary and her brother Richard Quin, feel the same way. Her sister Cordelia, however, the only child to not inherit her mother's gift, just wants a normal life, and resents her family's oddity. Their relationships are complex, and they form equally complicated relationships with other people around them. Just watching these interactions are interesting enough, but when you add the family's financial turmoil, the childhood fancies and imaginations, the murder subplot, and Cordelia's musical catastrophes, you end up with an engrossing family epic. Like other novels that are well crafted, and are focused on telling a comprehensive story with developed characters and themes and metaphors, this is a story you will want to sink into with time and effort. It's beautiful, and can be heart lifting and tragic in turns, and will make you want to read more about the family. West was intending to make this a long series, and while she never completed that dream, this book can stand well on its own, and is well worth your time.