Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West

Originally published in 1957, The Fountain Overflows follows the growing up of Rose Aubrey who has been marked out as a child prodigy for her gift with the piano. She and her older sister Mary plan to be concert pianists when they grow up, like their talented mother who threw in her career for marriage.

It is just as well they are so accomplished as it is likely they will have to make their own way in the world, their father being so hopeless with money. Oldest sister, Cordelia, keeps sawing away at her violin, much to the family’s disgust – she has no taste or talent – but is determined, while young brother Richard Quin charms whomever he meets.

The family live in their London house in what could be described as genteel poverty, which has made their mother rather fierce, while their brilliant journalist father squanders more money on dubious investments and takes an interest in various political causes. It is an eccentric upbringing and within this setting some extraordinary events take place, such as the unmasking of a poltergeist, and the murder of a school friend’s father.

There is a wonderful collection of oddball characters, beautifully described in West’s witty prose: the pretentious Miss Beevor who takes on Cordelia as a pupil; Mrs Aubrey’s unpleasant tease of a cousin who is married to her childhood friend, and many more besides.

The Fountain Overflows is a unique novel, rich in every way, thanks to Rebecca West’s wonderful writing and obviously heartfelt, owing much to West’s own unusual childhood. The novel is reprinted courtesy of Virago Press – a fabulous collection of women authors which are now classics. If you haven’t read them before they are well worth dipping into. 

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Fountain Overflows

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