The Fountain Overflows
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The Fountain Overflows (Aubrey Trilogy #1)

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  788 ratings  ·  115 reviews
The lives of the talented Aubrey children have long been clouded by their father's genius for instability, but his new job in the London suburbs promises, for a time at least, reprieve from scandal and the threat of ruin.

Mrs. Aubrey, a former concert pianist, struggles to keep the family afloat, but then she is something of a high-strung eccentric herself, as is all too c...more
Paperback, 408 pages
Published December 31st 2002 by NYRB Classics (first published 1956)
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Dec 04, 2013 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
I who usually hang around with degenerates (murderers, religious maniacs, Hitler) found myself enfolded within the bosom of a shabby-genteel family, the Aubreys, who were - only just - scraping by somewhere between 1900 and 1910 in south London on what the father forgot to gamble away on the stock exchange (not once but many times) and the mother’s fixed purpose that her two middle daughters will become concert pianists. The mother says things like

It must have the strict value of a quaver, other...more
Feb 21, 2012 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: virtuous virtuosos
Recommended to Mariel by: blood traitor
Do you feel like you've walked into the edges when you catch someone crying? What if they want you watching them cry? The edges could melt and lines blur. The them with just them, the them with you, you with them and you with just you. Rebecca West's fountain overflowed, all right. Too many people. I guess the lines did too, like one of those chalk drawings from the film of Mary Poppins. Lines on a page from trying to get it all down and figure everyone's place to make your expected move. I had...more
two pages into this realized i'd come across a sublimely intelligent and aware narrative voice -- that of a 12-yr-old girl in turn-of-the-century London -- and from that point on eat it up fast enough. pure delight. a fictionalized account of west's real family, the story follows the lives of the narrator, rose aubrey and her twin sister mary (both of whom are prodigies on the piano), their older sister cordelia, who apparently stinks at the piano, but doesn't realize it (much to the chagrine of...more
This is the second Rebecca West novel I've read. My first was her unfinished novel Sunflower. Oddly enough, I preferred that one to this, her most famous work. Though unfinished, Sunflower had a much tighter narrative, in my opinion.

Here, it seems West had so much to say, it came out all in a rush: anecdotes within anecdotes, text arbitrarily divided into paragraphs and chapters. It felt almost manic. It was frustrating, at times, because I craved something more linear. Nevertheless, one can't d...more
This is a lovely lovely book. Set in the early 1900's, it's an excellently and most skillfully written story of an extraordinary family that finds itself in extraordinary circumstances again and again. Beautiful wondrous prose. I am so enchanted. I borrowed this one from the library but since they didn't have the next one, This Real Night, I hastily ordered myself a copy. I regret the lag that has occurred between them but how was I to know this book would be such a pleasure? I haven't read anyt...more
Dec 04, 2013 Sylvester rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: musicians
(I hate reviewing books like this one! It's impossible. If I say everything rushing around in my head, no one will benefit. If I am brief, it is like an insult both to the book itself and to my feelings about it. I'm just going to grit my teeth and get it over with.)

This is a weird book. Irritating and even disturbing at first, I found myself getting very tense and anxious about the family's situation, and angry with the father for his neglect. I was sure I wasn't going to like the book, but by...more
THE FOUNTAIN OVERFLOWS. (1956). Rebecca West. ****.
Rebecca West (1892-1983) was the pen name of Cicely Isabel Fairfield, an English writer and critic who, unfortunately, has faded from the public’s awareness in recent years. In her early years, she was an ardent feminist and essayist, and ran in social circles active in political issues. Her most famous book was, “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon” (1941), a travelogue and history of Yugoslavia. I’ve put off reading it for years; it runs to over 1,000...more
Oct 09, 2008 Ellen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of The Soloist by Mark Salzman
Recommended to Ellen by: my mother
I originally read this brilliant book by Rebecca West when I was in my teens. Two of her themes rang so true that they clarified the way I thought and still think. First, she brought to life how much children are at the mercy of their parents. The children's father is a charming, intelligent man who is also self-centered, intolerant, ungrateful, and incapable of keeping a job. West's own father deserted the family and her portrait of the fictional father captures the aching love and mistrust the...more
Rebecca West likes to hear herself talk. That isn't necessarily bad--her writing is gorgeous. But in saying a lot, she sometimes repeats herself or says a lot of nothing. Nothing much happened in this book--it's more like a peek, through the limited perspective of a very astute, eloquent child--into the life of a family that continues to remain a mystery even though we spend 400-plus pages with them.

Forty percent into this book, nothing continues to happen, so the plot does not pick up until alm...more
May 15, 2012 Don rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: uk
Wonderful book about family life. 5 reasons to read this book:

(1) West is reputed to have described art as being science except more scientific. Her depiction, in this semi-autobiographical novel, of the mother in this story, Mrs. Aubrey illustrates how true this observation was. A lesson in character study - a fully realized bundle of contradictions, but deeply human. And all of this in a story full of the supernatural - poltergeists, mind-reading etc.
(2) The writing. Christopher Hitchens wrote...more
My enjoyment of this was so thorough that while it was underway, I remained convinced it was the best book I've ever read, an impression I knew I was unlikely to sustain once it ended, but still delighted me.

A jacket blurb proclaims West " of great masters of the English prose sentence" which is one those quintessentially dreary book jacket things to say, the kind of praise John Updike is often called on to provide for somewhat forgotten writers. I don't even know how to summarize the bril...more
Well, I gave up on this book, but maybe I should give it a second chance after reading all the glowing reviews. I didn't like how Cordelia was treated by the rest of the family and for the longest time, I thought she actually was probably a good violinist and that Rose and Mary were mediocre pianists but couldn't accept that Cordelia was better than they were. I probably wouldn't have read the book at all had I known that Constance's home was going to be haunted by poltergeists because that's ju...more
pre wwi one scotland, london a quirky novel that can totally absorb the reader in the childish and deadly serious world of art, writing, class war, sudden death, and even poltergeists of all things. rebecca west most famous novel of "black lamb and grey falcon" has nothing on this frightening, funny, and damn weird novel (in search of an editor, oh why didn't she have an editor?) that reminds me much of a certain pirate ship crewed by children in this story A High Wind in Jamaica. please see oth...more
Sonia Gomes
Sep 23, 2010 Sonia Gomes rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All women!
What do you do do when your parents are brilliant but eccentric?
Keith Clare a brilliant pianist married to the brilliant writer Piers Aubrey, both eccentric. Piers however, shows a touch of malevolence, he cares for none of his four children. An inveterate gambler, leaves his family in utter poverty but shows touches of love during Christmas, when he constructs elaborate wooden castles for them.
Clare Keith, just goes through the utter misery of poverty, duns at the door with never a mean thoug...more
☽ Moon Rose ☯
Sep 03, 2013 ☽ Moon Rose ☯ rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☽ Moon Rose ☯ by: Goodreads members who liked The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, The Saga of the Century Trilogy, New York Review Books Classics
“You must always believe that life is as extraordinary as music says it is.”
Music is from which the vessel of one′s soul is stirred to unimaginable heights of feeling as it is soothed by the glorious harmony of its sound, which congruence of perfection eliminates any notion that separates joy from sorrow as both are eternally conjoined in unison, linked together on a platform for a single Universal purpose---a symphony of creation that represents the divine language of the gods.

Music by its int...more
Jun 02, 2010 Josie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lydia, Gemma
The Fountain Overflows is a pretty simple story, a family of four growing up before WWI in the London suburbs, three older sisters and a littlest brother. They have no money, their father is a brilliant writer but always ruins them by gambling in the stock market. Their mother is performing a sisyphean feat in keeping them afloat and "out of the work house" while training them to be concert pianists. It is narrated by Rose, a middle kid and twin. It is something like Little House on the Prairie...more
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It is written from a child's perspective of her family at the turn of the 20th century. It is the funny account of how our parents always fail us no matter how wonderful we all are. We stumble at the same places every time. It's also a good snapshot of daily life at the turn of that century. Rebecca West never misses a beat in telling the story from a young point of view, which is an extremely difficult thing to do. Literature is littered with and wr...more
Feb 15, 2010 Maureen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: adrianne, paul, matt
From the description of the story, you'd expect this book to be a decent, but very ordinary, story something along the lines of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In fact, this book is anything but one of those novels- it is as whimsical and darkly humorous as a Roald Dahl story, but with themes and characters as complex as something you'd find in Dostoevsky. I lost a substantial amount of sleep this past week, partly because I stayed up too late to read, and partly because after reading my mind wouldn't...more
West writes beautifully on music and I would have preferred that alone.

Some wonderful social history on artistic London life in the early twentieth century.

But very poor pacing, at times molasses-thick for me, and the same old scenes played out on a loop (im thinking of Cordelia's struggles with the violin) with a titbit of something wonderful every fifty pages.

A family saga in which I wished to be the occasional visitor, but felt like the person who comes for a cup of tea and never gets to lea...more
Melissa LaSalle
I wanted to like this novel more than I did, especially as it was recommended to me by my fellow fiction-loving aunt and, as it turns out, had a huge following back in the 1950s when it was published. I actually liked it better after I read some critical essays about it (as apparently I am easily influenced!). Perhaps one problem for me is that West is continually compared to Dickens--and, while there are some FABULOUS peripheral characters who are very Dickensian (and West's writing excels in t...more
Apr 02, 2008 Nora rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: musicians, writers, people with families, neurotics
Wow. I read this book unable to believe I had never read Rebecca West before. Wonderfully drawn characters, behaving sort of badly. I keep trying to make people read it and they do not obey me, I don't know why. I actually bought it on a whim (I almost never buy books for myself, unless they are reference books), and look forward to reading it again in ten years.
Nikolay Nikiforov
У Йейтса есть стихи:

Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;

С поправкой на гендер — мужского пола персонажи тут присутствуют исключительно на комически-эксцентрических ролях — книга именно про это, про the toil of growing up и the ignominy of childhood.

Довольно в этом уникальная — все книги в жанре "портрет художника в детстве-отрочестве", которые читал, были написаны с точки зрения человека, для которого борьба ребенка за появление у нег...more
One of the best books about what it actually means to be an artist.
Hmmm, this was an interesting book. Quite a saga, really, that spans a relatively short period of time, but a vast distance in growth, understanding and acceptance. Quirky, wordy, thought-provoking...all in all a rollicking good time.

Our narrator is a young girl who plays piano very well. So does her twin sister. An older sister believes she can play violin extremely well, though this is doubted by the rest of the family. The youngest son is the glue that holds the children and their mother toge...more
It took a lot of coffee to get through this book, which had so much to offer, yet also so much that held it back.
It is the story of a family composed of mercurial, volatile genius parents, three daughters and one son, and is set in Edwardian Scotland, first, then Lovegrove, a South London suburb. The characterization is complex; emotions are just this side of overly melodramatic. It is as much a story set in music as it is music set in a story. I've read it described as "Dickensian", which is ap...more
This is Cornflower Bookclub's book for January, I believe, and I decided to read it--and I am delighted that I did! The subject fits in weirdly well with my recent Edwardian/early 20th century British reading jag, but is by far the most developed and detailed of any of the books I've been reading lately, and so quenches that thirst to a high degree. That said, it's also different from other stories of family life, social striving, social changes, and maturation: West's almost stream of conscious...more
I forget why I put this book n my to-read list in the first place. Maybe it was one of those NPR recommendations, or maybe it was an Amazon recommendation based on somebody who had been recommended by NPR. At any rate, if I had read any responsible summary of this book, I can't imagine that I would have picked it up. I discovered this when I was trying to give a brief overview of what the book is "about" to my husband. What's it about? People. People living their lives. A family, and the people...more
The Fountain Overflows is long and despite having started it about 3 weeks ago I'm only about two thirds in. I would often have given up by now, but I really wanted to review it, so have kept on going. I'm a bit mystified by the many glowing reviews I've read. In my view it is one of those old fashioned novels that hasn't worn well. The story revolves around the Aubrey family - Mr and Mrs, three daughters - Rose, Mary and Cordelia, and the young son Richard Quinn. The family is poor (but can sti...more
Rebecca West had an extraordinary ability to make the reader care passionately about her characters, perhaps because she herself did. Based on her own early life, this book tells the story of the impoverished Aubrey family, most of whom are dedicated musicians. The mother was a concert pianist before marriage, once commended by Brahms. The father a brilliant but erratic journalist who gambles away most of the money he makes. The oldest daughter, a much admired violinist, who according the the mo...more
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NYRB Classics: The Fountain Overflows, by Rebecca West 1 4 Oct 23, 2013 08:49AM  
  • Angel
  • Lolly Willowes
  • Invitation to the Waltz
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • The Outward Room
  • Frost in May
  • Manservant and Maidservant
  • The Vet's Daughter
  • The Slaves of Solitude
  • The Rector's Daughter
  • Wish Her Safe at Home
  • Irretrievable
  • Miss Mole (A Virago modern classic)
  • A Legacy
  • South Riding
  • Good Behaviour
  • The Book of Ebenezer Le Page
  • All Passion Spent
Cicely Isabel Fairfield (21 December 1892-15 March 1983), known by her pen name Rebecca West, or Dame Rebecca West, DBE was an English author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer. A prolific, protean author who wrote in many genres, West was committed to feminist and liberal principles and was one of the foremost public intellectuals of the twentieth century. She reviewed books for The T...more
More about Rebecca West...
The Return of the Soldier Black Lamb and Grey Falcon The Birds Fall Down Cousin Rosamund (VMC) This Real Night

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“You must always believe that life is as extraordinary as music says it is.” 55 likes
“Yes,” said Mamma, “this is the worst of life, that love does not give us common sense but is a sure way of losing it. We love people, and we say that we are going to do more for them than friendship, but it makes such fools of us that we do far less, indeed sometimes what we do could be mistaken for the work of hatred.” 9 likes
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