The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell

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9780241141656: The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell

The Girl from the Fiction Department is Hilary Spurling's absorbing biography of George Orwell's second wife. George Orwell's second wife was portrayed by her husband's biographers as a manipulative gold-digger who would stop at nothing to keep control of his legacy. But the truth about Sonia Orwell - the model for Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four - was altogether different. Beautiful, intelligent and fiercely idealistic, she lived at the heart of London's literary and artistic scene before her marriage to Orwell changed her life for ever. Burdened with the almost impossible task of protecting Orwell's estate, Sonia's loyalty to her late husband brought her nothing but poverty and despair. 'Lucid, compassionate. Brings this complex woman, and the times she lived in, vibrantly to life' Sunday Tribune 'Absorbing and sparkling. Brilliant. I urge you to read this provocative book' Sunday Express 'A story to move you to tears' Scotsman Hilary Spurling is a prize-winning biographer whose books include Ivy: The Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett, The Unknown Matisse, Matisse the Master and La Grande Therese.

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About the Author:

Hilary Spurling was born in 1940. She is the author of numerous biographies, including Ivy When Young: The Early Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1884-1919; Paul Scott: A Life; a two-volume biography of Matisse, The Unknown Matisse and Matisse the Master (also published in the abridged single-volume Matisse: The Life); and Burying the Bones. She won the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize for Ivy When Young, the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for Matisse the Master, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Burying the Bones. She grew up in Bristol and studied at the University of Oxford. From 1964 to 1970 she was theatre critic and literary editor of the Spectator, and since then she has been a regular book reviewer for the Observer and the Daily Telegraph. She lives in London with her husband, the playwright John Spurling, with whom she has three children. Her new book, Anthony Powell, will be published by Hamish Hamilton in October 2016.

From Publishers Weekly:

Sonia Brownell (1918-1980) married George Orwell in 1949 because he said it would help him recover his health. Unfortunately, the marriage proved no panacea for tuberculosis, and 14 weeks after the wedding, he died, leaving Sonia, a talented editor associated with the magazine Horizon, as his sole heir. She also inherited his pseudonym (which she continued to use as her surname till the end of her life), and, in time, assumed the role of the ferocious Widow Orwell, jealous guardian of her husband's literary reputation. Her battles with upstart biographers and established publishers, her vicious tongue and her propensity for drink led to her being vilified as a grasping opportunist. Mary McCarthy used the occasion of Sonia's memorial service to summarize her weakest points, notes Spurling, and David Plante anatomized her in Difficult Women. Now her good friend Spurling, a highly regarded biographer, seeks to set the record straight with a portrait that emphasizes Sonia's vitality, generosity, kindness and support of writers like Jean Rhys, who were much in need of it. Though Spurling treads lightly over the more intimate aspects of Sonia's life and two marriages, she does remind readers that Sonia was more than just Orwell's relict; she was closely involved in the lives and careers of many of the most influential British, French and American artists and writers of the mid-20th century. Spurling's brief, warm biography appears a touching act of friendship; if she perhaps overstates the case for Sonia, she makes clear that Sonia's critics have exaggerated the case against her. B&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Spurling, Hilary / ref: Sonia Orwell / ref: George Orwell
Published by Hamish Hamilton (2002)
ISBN 10: 0241141656 ISBN 13: 9780241141656
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Book Description Hamish Hamilton, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Photos (illustrator). 1st Edition. 2002 FIRST EDITION Hardcover book in original dust Jacket. BRAND NEW from 2002 publisher. Never opened, Never owned, Never marked. Book size: 5-1/4 x 8" ; 194 pages, illustrated with black & white photographs. Beautiful book, maroon over boards with gold gilt title on spine, in cream jacket with sepiatone photograph of Sonia on the front. Sonia Orwell, George Orwell's second wife, as described by his own earlier biographers was not accurate. Determined to set the record straight, her friend Hilary Spurling, herself an acclaimed biographer, reveals the whole story of Sonia Orwell's sad and splendid life in this fascinating book. Beautiful, intelligent, and idealistic, but also, as she grew older , intimidating, Sonia was the model for Julia, "the girl from the Fiction Department", the heroine of George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four". Writers Angus Wilson, Marguerite Duras, and Anthony Powell also based fictional characters on the real life woman, Sonia Orwell. To the artists who first loved and painted her as a very young woman in London in the late 1930s, she was known as 'the Euston Road Venus'. These included such artists as William Coldstream, Victor Pasmore, Claude Rogers, Rodrigo Moynihan. Sonia's friends and admirers included W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Lucian Freud, Mary McCarthy, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Leiris, and Cyril Connolly. She was Connolly's indispensible assistant on the influential literary magazine " Horizon " during the 1940s, and in the 1960s she co-edited the ground-breaking four-volume collection of George Orwell's non-fiction writings. After the failure of Sonia's second marriage, to Michael Pitt-Rivers, who was jailed with Lord Montague and Peter Wildeblood for homosexual offences in 1954, Sonia's life began to go wrong, and its tragic turn and ending was almost wholly due to the impossible burden which had been unwittingly placed on her by George Orwell at the time of his death. Michel Leiris saw her as a fairy-tale heroine from Arthurian myth. Orwell's biographers mistakenly depicted her as mean and mercenary. Author Hillary Spurling in this book shows the real Sonia Orwell in all her generous, spirited, ferocious and self-doubting complexity. " The Girl from the Fiction Department - A Portrait of Sonia Orwell " by Hilary Spurling. published by Hamish Hamilton, England. 2002 Hard cover Book in DJ. *** Secure packing ~ Safe delivery ~ since 1965 *** 5-1/4 x 8 x 1 ". Bookseller Inventory # 4911b

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