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Mary Olivier: a Life

May Sinclair

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .She made Catty put her bed between the two windows, and Mark made a bookshelf out of a piece of wood and some picture cord, and hung it within reach. She had a happy, excited feeling when she thought of the three books; it made her wake early. She read from five o'clock till Catty called her at seven, and again after Catty had tucked her up and left her, till the white light in the room was grey.

She learnt Lycidas by heart, and

   "I thought I saw my late espoused wife
    Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,"—

and the bits about Satan in Paradise Lost. The sound of the lines gave her the same nice feeling that she had when Mrs. Propart played the March in Scipio after Evening Service. She tried to make lines of her own that went the same way as the lines in Milton and Shakespeare and Pope's Iliad. She found out that there was nothing she liked so much as making thes. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is the third book of May Sinclair’s oeuvre that I liked a lot, so I ordered a whole bunch of her books yesterday. They’re all out-of-print which is sad, since I think (and so do others) that she writes very well. I’ve read ‘Three Sisters’ (4.5 stars) and ‘Life and Death of Harriet Frean’ (4 sta

Breathtaking beauty inhabits every tiny little moment of this book, the story of a young genius learning, struggling, but building confidence and capacity layer by layer until she launches herself, confident, into her public. “There isn't any risk. This time it was clear, clear as the black pattern

May Sinclair wrote widely, both fiction and non-fiction – though the majority of her work is out of print now. The Life and Death of Harriet Frean is possibly her best-known work, and along with this novel the easiest to find. Though I believe some print on demand versions of some of May Sinclair’s

This is a good book but so sad. It's all about Mary and her mother and what makes it so sad is that her mother doesn't love her. She tries, at times, but is ultimately unsuccessful. I remember the part that made me the saddest is when Mary is still pretty young and she is begging for her mother to t

Like Mary Olivier herself, this book is caught between the worlds of Victorian Realism with its sense of duty, tradition and clearly defined gender roles, and Modernism, with its experimental prose, strong images and focus on interiority. The overall feeling is one of ambiguity. Mary Olivier is fill

I was sure I would hate this book with a vengeance. For the first 50 pages or so I did, but slowly, slowly, I became entranced by May Sinclair's bold, brave and modern writing. Sure, very little actually happens in this novel by way of plot or action, but the author's skilful use of language is just

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