Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Sybille Bedford's latest novel walks the borderline between autobiography and fiction. It picks up where A Legacy leaves off, leading us from 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 apprenticeship to life, and of her many ...
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Sybille Bedford's latest novel walks the borderline between autobiography and fiction. It picks up where A Legacy leaves off, leading us from 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 apprenticeship to life, and of her many teachers: her father, a pleasure-loving German baron; her brilliant, beautiful, erratic English mother; and later, on the Mediterranean coast of France, the Huxleys, Aldous and Maria. Jigsaw, wrote the Sunday Times, is "the most unusual, most resonant of all Sybille Bedford's unusual and resonant books".
Publishers Weekly, 1991-05-17 Bedford flirts with autobiography in her tale of Billi, an independent , sophisticated adolescent shuttled between her bohemian mother in Italy and a penurious family in England. According to PW , this is ``richly buttressed with details of social history, regional color and the artistic and literary scene of the '20s and '30s. . . . One feels that Bedford has achieved . . . `the translation from experience into art.' '' (June)
Publishers Weekly, 1989-02-17 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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