Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review: Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Nancy Mitford presents such thorough, insightful, compelling, and penetrating look at one of America's premier poets, that I often felt at times like shouting "Too much information!" Millay, her husband, her sisters, her mother, and most of her lovers/friends (they were often the same) of both sexes seemed to be inveterent letter writers. Not only did they write letters, they often left numerous drafts of those letters giving us an intimate portrait of emotions, intentions, and life in the first half of the twentieth century. Their drinking, carousing (is that a nice enough way to say "lots of sex of all varieties?"), international traveling, neglect of family and friends, and late life drug addiction is well detailed. Our herione led a less than stellar life depending on one's perspective. At times I tired of her pouting promiscuity, her incessant mooching on the generosity of others, the constant indebtedness, and the incredible selfishness which most who knew her seemed to regard as part of her genius. Her husband's acceptance of and participation in their "open marriage" was difficult for me to understand. And swimming au naturel in Maine's island waters at any time of the year was not something I was impressed with....I thought it proved she was a bit "off." I guess we can accept that anyone who downed the copious amounts of alcohol she and hubby did was probably pickled to the point that they didn't feel the water temp! In addition to many photographs, there are numerous samples of her poetry, used to illustrate the various passions and favorites in her life. Taking the time to read and absorb the poems meant this book of over 500 pages took me almost 5 weeks to finish! In spite of the subject's tragic life and its ending, the author presents us with her life in an objective yet sympathetic way without passing judgment. That made it easy to read and recommend the book to others.


  1. Wow! I don't think I would have the patience to read a book for that long. It sounds like an interesting book though.

  2. That's why I usually have more than one book going at once. If one if not quite holding my interest, I can go to something else and come back later to the ho-hum one. This wasn't boring however, just quite detailed, and full of poetry which always takes me longer to read.


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