The Furies (New York Review Books Classics)



An exhilarating, fiercely honest, ultimately devastating book, The Furies confronts the claims of family and the lure of desire, the difficulties of independence, and the approach of death.

Janet Hobhouse's final testament is beautifully written, deeply felt, and above all utterly alive.

The poignant, often wryly humorous, sometimes tragic story of a young ...

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An exhilarating, fiercely honest, ultimately devastating book, The Furies confronts the claims of family and the lure of desire, the difficulties of independence, and the approach of death.

Janet Hobhouse's final testament is beautifully written, deeply felt, and above all utterly alive.

The poignant, often wryly humorous, sometimes tragic story of a young woman's drive to forge a life and identity of her own making, a life not molded by the sins of her mother. "A sort of Jamesian journey through the labyrinth of the narrator's consciousness . . . an intense tale told at fever pitch."--Boston Globe.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a grim, tough, powerful, and beautiful book, the memoir of a genuine heroine, whose struggle against the calamities that beset her — beginning with the wounds inflicted by a remote coldhearted father and a pathetically helpless mother and ending with the anguish of a wrecked marriage, the mother’s suicide, and the author’s own fatal illness — was waged with enormous intelligence and fortitude, and even with flair. At the heart of the book — and depicted with pitiless candor — is the tortuous bond of love between mother and daughter. That at the end of her brief life, Janet Hobhouse could transform her suffering into a confession so precise and evocative and singularly unselfpitying, so strangely full of verve, strikes me as a considerable moral as well as literary achivement." — Philip Roth

"A stunning heartbreaker of a book, shot through with pellucid sadness…[an] extraordinary last book in which [Hobouse’s] pain is as insistent—and lustrous—as her craft." — Daphne Merkin, Los Angeles Times

"[A] sad, beautiful—and profoundly affecting—meditation on love and death and family." — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"A sort of Jamesian journey through the labyrinth of the narrator’s consciousness, a finely tuned, highly intelligent, witty, self—examining and haunted instrument…This is an intense tale, told at fever pitch. Grab your hat and hang on for the ride." — The Boston Globe

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As she did in such previous, highly acclaimed works as Dancing in the Dark , the late Hobhouse (1948-1991) draws freely on her personal story to create this mesmerizing, unforgettable novel. Helen, the narrator, is her alter ego, a woman whose turbulent, increasingly tragic life parallels the author's own. Initially, however, Hobhouse portrays the women in Helen's nominally Jewish, well-bred family, beginning with her matriarchal grandmother, Mirabel. In each generation there are squabbling sisters, improvident marriages, nervous breakdowns, divorce. The daughter of startlingly beautiful but hopelessly immature Bett, Helen as a child adores her mother despite Bett's virtual abandonment of her in boarding school. Later, when the teenage Helen rebels against her mother's claustrophobic neediness, she first seeks solace from her cold, caustic father in England, then in affairs at Oxford and marriage. After the inevitable divorce comes illness--a harrowing journey whose tragedy does indeed seem ordained by the furious fates. Hobhouse tells this increasingly dark story in graceful, assured, often eloquent prose animated by keen, witty observations and illuminated by her laser eye for social conventions and character foibles. Her style is old-fashioned in the best sense: dense with descriptive detail and psychological insight, both in the service of multilayered character delineation. That Hobhouse in effect foreshadowed her own death makes the novel even more poignant and affecting. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This posthumous work by novelist and biographer Hobhouse ( Nellie Without Hugo , LJ 6/1/82; Everybody Who Was Anybody: A Biography of Gertrude Stein , LJ 11/15/75) is a literate combination of the two forms: very much an autobiography, but with the imagination and flow of a novel. The story opens with a genealogical trace of four generations of women: strong grandmothers, quarreling sisters, and artistic aunts, all widowed or abandoned by their men. Finally in the fourth generation is Helen, only child of lovely but unstable Bett. Her British father is long gone and her mother is living alone tenuously, so little Helen is shipped off to a lonely life at a second-rate boarding school. Helen's often painful maturation is a long reconciliation with her mother and a quest for identity. Well done and quietly compelling.-- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590170854
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 3/11/2004
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Pages: 293
  • Sales rank: 854,665
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet Hobhouse (1948–1991) was raised in New York City and educated at Oxford. She lived in London and New York and was the author of two works of non-fiction, The Bride Stripped Bare, a study of the female nude in art, and Everybody Who Was Anybody: A Biography of Gertrude Stein, and four novels, Nellie Without Hugo, Dancing in the Dark, November, and The Furies, which was published after her death from ovarian cancer at the age of forty-two.

Daphne Merkin is the author of Enchantment, a novel and Dreaming of Hitler, a collection of essays. Her cultural criticism has appeared in a range of publications, including Vogue and The American Scholar, and has been widely anthologized. She has been a staff writer for The New Yorker, and is currently a contributing writer at Elle and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in New York City, where she teaches writing, and is at work on a memoir, Melancholy Baby.

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