Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education

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"Sybille Bedford's latest novel picks up where her first, A Legacy, left off, leading us out of the Kaiser's Germany into the wider Europe of the 1920s and the limbo between world wars. The narrator, Billi, tells the story of her scholar-gipsy childhood and of her many teachers, beginning with her father, a pleasure-loving German baron, and her brilliant, beautiful, erratic mother. Later, on the Mediterranean coast of France, she meets the artists and intellectuals who will show her the way to a life's work in literature, among them the Huxleys,
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Washington, DC 2001 Trade paperback New. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 368 p. Audience: General/trade. NEW

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Overview

"Sybille Bedford's latest novel picks up where her first, A Legacy, left off, leading us out of the Kaiser's Germany into the wider Europe of the 1920s and the limbo between world wars. The narrator, Billi, tells the story of her scholar-gipsy childhood and of her many teachers, beginning with her father, a pleasure-loving German baron, and her brilliant, beautiful, erratic mother. Later, on the Mediterranean coast of France, she meets the artists and intellectuals who will show her the way to a life's work in literature, among them the Huxleys, Aldous and Maria. Germany, Italy, England, France; mentors, examples, seducers, friends - each place, each person is a bright piece in the puzzle of Billi's identity. But Billi is more than the sum of all these pieces, just as Jigsaw is more than the sum of Bedford's art."--BOOK JACKET.
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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
She is one of the best writers in English, and Jigsaw may be the best of her books.
Chicago Tribune
Jigsaw ... answer[s] for us the fundamental questions: what is life like? what does it mean? and how do people bear it?
New York Times Book Review
Sharp images remain ... a great number of these have such intensity that they become a part of one's own memory.
Guardian
Moving . . . evocative . . . acutely drawn. It reads like autobiography of the most absorbing kind . . . compelling beyond fictive imagination.
Victoria Glendinning
Strong writing, wonderful settings, electrifying family dynamicsóit should have won the Booker.
David Plante
Jigsaw opens out into history ... history that moves one in the way that only the very best fiction can.
Sylvia Brownrigg
A painful solitude runs through the novelóthe salt that draws out its distinctive flavor.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Styled a ``biographical novel,'' narrated by Bedford in the first person, and ``true to life . . . give or take a novelist's margins,'' the engrossing story of Bedford's early years and coming of age might just as well have been called a memoir. ``The Kislings and the Aldous Huxleys are . . . themselves; my mother and I are a percentage of ourselves,'' she writes in an author's note. The reason for clothing her story in fiction is her tact and delicacy in portraying the characters she calls the Falkenheims, the Nairns and the Desmirails, in order not to be ``hurtful'' to their descendants. Those who read Bedford's novel The Legacy will find echoes here, but this narrative has a more immediate effect, because the reader realizes that only a thin scrim comes between the facts of Bedford's life and their fictional rendering. Bedford (Billi here) was the product of an eccentric, unstable upbringing. Raised by her father in the Grand Duchy of Baden when her irresponsible, charismatic mother runs off with a lover; then, when she is 12, plunged into a vagabond existence shuttling between her mother in Italy and a penurious family in England to whom she is consigned, Billi becomes independent and precociously sophisticated before she reaches adolescence. Though her formal education is sketchy, her intellectual maturation occurs early on, as does her conviction that writing is to be her metier. Richly buttressed with details of social history, regional color and the artistic and literary scene of the '20s and '30s, the narrative gathers intensity as Billi discloses her mother's morphine addiction and the tragic vicissitudes endured by her London friends. In the end, one feels that Bedford has achieved the qualities writers long for: ``the translation from experience into art.'' (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
The second of Bedford's four novels to be reissued by Counterpoint (see below), this sequel to "A Legacy "follows its character into the limbo years between the world wars. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989, Bedford's largely autobiographical story draws on many elements of Bedford's unusual childhood, as she explains in a new introduction that sorts fact from fiction. Among the facts: like Bedford, her narrator and father have been abandoned in penury by her mother, who eventually returns for the daughter, who tags along on European jaunts until the two settle among the artsy English in London. "Kirkus "recognized the novel as a "quasi-memoir" and thought the secondary characters (including the Huxleys as themselves) "glimmered." But the narrator herself, we found, was "pale" and "idealized" and endowed with an unearned charm. Though Bedford's "polished, unobtrusive prose elevates," it "never electrifies." "Luminous," yes, but "unaffecting."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582431437
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST COUNTE
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.02 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

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