Friday, 22 July 2011
As I've said before, I have a somewhat mixed relationship with stalwart Virago Modern Classic author Rebecca West. So I wasn't quite sure whether or not I would like Sunflower, especially as it seemed to be somewhat different to some of her other novels. It's described as an unfinished fragment, although it is just as long as any of her other books. Where it differs I think, is the extent to which it is autobiographical.
Sunflower, of the title, is an actress and mistress to Lord Essington ("Sunflower" is his private name for her); she leads a glamourous life, but really wants to settle down in domesticity, and this leads her to pursue a millionaire politician named Francis Pitt who she believes will help her to attain this.
Apparently, this is a portrait of Rebecca West's relationship with HG Wells (Essington) and her doomed obsessive love for the politician Beaverbrook. The afterword says that those who knew West would not have recognised her as Sunflower, but surely, in a novel like this you would want to describe yourself as you would like to be? I found the novel quite absorbing although I couldn't quite decide whether I sympathised with Sunflower or not, but I think I was fascinated by the idea that it was based on real life.
It's just been published once by Virago with the original green cover - I can't help feeling disappointed that Virago didn't use an appropriate Vincent Van Gogh for it.