A Stranger Still

A Stranger Still

by Anna Kavan
     
 

A strong early novel first published in 1935 under the name of Helen Ferguson. Set in the 1930s, in Bohemian London, Paris, and southern France, the story concerns a rich family and their financial and emotional vicissitudes. The autobiographical element (repression in childhood) is implicit for those familiar with the author's enigmatic life. The author actually…  See more details below

Overview

A strong early novel first published in 1935 under the name of Helen Ferguson. Set in the 1930s, in Bohemian London, Paris, and southern France, the story concerns a rich family and their financial and emotional vicissitudes. The autobiographical element (repression in childhood) is implicit for those familiar with the author's enigmatic life. The author actually identified so strongly with the glacial character of Anna Kavan that she subsequently wrote under that name.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
First published in 1935, Kavan's nimble riches-to-rags family saga is now something of a period piece, though it brims with sophistication and charm. The central plot revolves around urbane but domineering widower William Lewison, owner of Greater London stores, who loses control of his empire and implacably seeks revenge on the scheming partner who has duped him. More interesting to most readers, however, will be the "Anna Kavan" we meet here (the novel was originally brought out under Kavan's married name of Helen Ferguson). A self-reliant, egocentric rebel of 25, Anna, having run away from her husband in India, now shares an apartment with a woman in London. Soon she ventures to Italy with Martin Lewison, William's son, an easygoing painter whose cheating wife has absconded with Martin's best friend, the slovenly bohemian artist Gerald Gill. Kavan (1901-1968), who was addicted to heroin for most of her adult life, portrays her alter ego as a born outsider, giving contemporary appeal to the protofeminist heroine who is resolved to take control of her destiny. The author's meticulous poetic analysis of her characters' emotions at times recalls Virginia Woolf, as she deflates pretense, hidden motives and inflated self-images with the lightest touch. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
A first US appearance for a novel of acutely detailed alienation and despairing acceptance, first published in 1935 in Britain under the pseudonym Helen Ferguson.

Kavan (Mercury, 1995), a writer always attuned to sensibility and mood, offers a story with a strong autobiographical element and period flavor that, in keeping with the despair that lurks beneath the surface, brings little solace. Lives intersect as Martin, the younger son of London department store magnate William Lewison, meets a woman named Anna Kavan while vacationing with his father in the south of France. Lewison Sr. has just prevailed upon Martin to divorce his French (and most unsuitable) wife, Germaine, on the grounds of her adultery with Martin's best friend, and Martin, self-centered but full of good intentions, is awaiting the final decree. Anna Kavan has left her husband Matthew in Burma and fled to London, but the attentions of a wealthy old judge who wants her to be his mistress, and the difficulties of a frustrating business venture with a friend, have driven her to France. Acknowledging her own cool and egocentric nature, she determines to make a life for herself, but she is neither wealthy nor educated, and when she meets Martin and the two fall in love, Anna wants to marry him. But Martin prefers his freedom, so Anna, unable to survive alone, reconciles with her husband. Meanwhile, the Lewison fortunes suffer a reversal, William falls ill, and Gwenda, Martin's sister, betrays her family by siding with their rival Tony Quested. Only William and Martin seem made of tougher stuff: William determines to revive his business, and Martin pays his debt to Anna by painting her portrait: It keeps "alive a good and lovely thing which otherwise would have perished."

Lives that are brittle, even shallow, are mercilessly stripped bare to reveal all their flaws and inadequacies by a writer who sees more often than not through a glass darkly. Chilling but intriguing.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780720609554
Publisher:
Owen, Peter Limited
Publication date:
03/20/1996
Pages:
310
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.15(d)

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