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May Sinclair

May Sinclair

(2000)
A Modern Victorian
A non fiction book by

 
Born in Liverpool in 1863, May Sinclair is one of the key figures in modernist literature and criticism (it was she who coined the phrase "stream of consciousness" in a commentary on the work of the novelist Dorothy Richardson). She died in 1946, author of 21 novels (notably, Mary Olivier: A Life (1919)) as well as a number of literary and philosophical works (including a study of the women who were to preoccupy her throughout her life, The Three Brontes). Yet, as Suzanne Raitt points out at the beginning of her excellent biography, there is surprisingly little written about Sinclair, a very private woman who led a discreet, and often lonely, life. The wager of Raitt's book is to move Sinclair to the centre of the literary stage; with access to new archival material, she is also keen to "broaden the contexts in which Sinclair's work has been discussed".

On the cusp between Victorian and high modernist culture, Sinclair was obviously engaged with experiment in literary form. But her life is also bound up with some of the key cultural and intellectual issues of her time: the suffrage movement, for example, the shattering experience of the First World War, the emergence of psychoanalysis as a theory of self and creativity. Moving convincingly between the life and the fiction, May Sinclair is a remarkably readable account of a writer whose struggles with what it meant to be a woman in a "modern" world reveal a complex, and fascinating, character. Vicky Lebeau

 
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