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Harriet Hume: A London Fantasy
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Harriet Hume: A London Fantasy

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  94 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
In this modern fairy tale, Rebecca West transports her reader with a tale of the polar opposites of mind and spirit, love and power
Harriet Hume’s unchanging beauty and commitment to her art stand in stark contrast to Arnold Condorex’s more worldly goals. After a romantic tryst, she discovers that she can read his mind, but Arnold, with his sights set on moving up in the w
ebook, 287 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by Open Road Media (first published 1929)
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Nov 13, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rebecca-west
4.5 stars
This is my first Rebecca West and Harriet Hume is one of West’s lesser known novels. It has mixed reviews, possibly I think because it is not easy to see what West is doing. It is also an unusual modernist novel because it involves a fantasy element. It is a London novel and there are some good descriptions of London streets in the 1920s. The story is a double hander between two protagonists; Harriet Hume and Arnold Condorex. Harriet is a pianist with intuition and sensitivity, Arnold i
Jan 06, 2012 Blyth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read Harriet Hume to close out the set of novels whose characters personify Virginia Woolf's themes from "A Room of One's Own." All three novels - written by Woolf, Rebecca West, and Vita Sackville-West - contrast the feminine appreciation for beauty with the masculine urge to dominate.

This novel details a strange love affair in which the heroine inexplicably develops the ability to read the thoughts of her suitor. As one might imagine, it doesn't take long for things to sour. In this case, sh
Apr 18, 2016 Nicola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
"...he was struck by something familiar in the aspect of the wall by which he was walking. A pretty green creeper ran half the length of it, and at intervals drooped pale waving tendrils a fore-arm's length down into the street, so that it looked as if a harem had drugged their eunuchs in a body and had stolen to the confines of their prison to have their fingers kissed by a queue of lovers."

What a wonderfully evocative description; I nearly rated this 2 1/2 stars due to the fact that I didn't e
Book Wormy
Jun 10, 2015 Book Wormy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read
Harriet Hume Rebecca West

Harriet Hume is the story of the relationship between the title character and an ambitious young man Arnold Condorex. Early in their relationship Harriet develops the ability to read Arnolds mind and while some of what she finds there is flattering he spends most of his time thinking about how to advance himself and a serious relationship with Harriet is not going to do that.

Needless to say Harriets ability to read Arnolds mind leads to the end of their relationship, how
Feb 10, 2016 Pip rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not being a fan of fantasy I disliked the fantastical elements, such as the tale the aponymous Harriet wove about three trees in her garden being three historical sisters joined by garlands of flowers. The only bit I enjoyed was the description of the garden itself, and some descriptions of London that West rendered beautifully. Harriet was tiny, beautiful and an accomplished pianist. She was a symbol of the arts, rather than a real woman. She dressed always in the colour of parchment. Was this ...more
A young man, Arnold Condorex, has an affair with Harriet Hume, a beautiful piano player. Then he leaves her to have a successful career in politics, but she shows up at different stages of his life to make him see how his life is going wrong. The book is also called "A London fantasy" and every time he meets Harriet again something fantastical happens, such as all the statues in London coming to life or three young women turning into trees. The writing is wonderful and I love the London that is ...more
Aug 09, 2016 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming to this through some kind of Bloomsbury lens, and flush with my enjoyment of The Fountain Overflows, I needed some adjustment to the fabulous (as in 'like a fable') aspect of the narrative, but I suppose one could draw a few comparisons to Orlando. About 3/4s of the way through, I was losing patience as the characters felt like they were becoming purely puppets representing the preposterous ideas men and women form about one another (though the antithesis is also art vs. commerce as well ...more
Dec 26, 2009 Melanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
This is an odd book, and I would have rated it rather more lowly, but I really liked the tone. There's something about British books written between the wars. They have kind of a sweet sadness that almost has a desperate hope that nothing bad will even happen again. Sometimes you can tell they are firmly ignoring the signs of impending war. Not in this book, but sometimes. And I sometimes wonder if letting go of some dreams isn't better than railing against the world because you can't achieve th ...more
I really enjoyed "Harriet Hume: A London fantasy." As this isn't considered one of Rebecca West's best novels, I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Harriet is a young woman with a strange connection with her lover Arnold Condorex -- she can see into his mind and knows what he is thinking and hiding from even himself. She pops up into his life at critical moments and shakes his world.

I really liked the build up of the story and West's use of language and the landscape. This was
Mar 28, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tinted with fantasy romance. The heroine's a recital of Harriet Cohen, concert pianist 'n' muse to Elgar, Sibelius, DH Lawrence, H.G. Wells...

"works of art feel towards human beings exactly as we do towards ghosts."


Feb 23, 2013 Benjamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Appropriately subtitled 'A London Fantasy', this is a dreamy novel about ambitious Arnold Condorex and his love for independent, ethereal Harriet Hume. They meet five times over the course of several years, in which Arnold's rise to and fall from power is traced, all foreseen and predicted by Harriet, with whom he shares an almost supernatural connection. In the end, Harriet is all that is left to him. Bittersweet.
Short easy to read story which follows the male character through his life. The book jumps several years but keeps coming back to Harriet and her ability.
Loved West's style of writing and the book's unusualness. It could have been written as a common love story but the element of fantasy thrown in raises it above that.
Jun 05, 2016 Harriet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book - it's a magical, mystical love story. It reminded me of Jeanette Winterson or Angela Carter, in being quite timeless and outside of reality, although it is set firmly in 1920s London. It was also funny and comical, although the language was extremely archaic and bizarre.
Jan 31, 2010 Patricia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain
The rarified language got on my nerves. But I loved Harriet's fairy tales of women turning into trees and sphinxes padding down the streets of London.
Oct 25, 2013 M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plot is interesting but the execution is poor. It is very verbose for a 20th century novel. The style is closer to a 19th century book.
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Cicely Isabel Fairfield, 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 Times, the New York Herald Tribune ...more
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“works of art feel towards human beings exactly as we do towards ghosts. The transparency of spectres, the diffuseness in space which lets them drift through doors and walls, and their smell of death, disgust us not more than we disgust works of art by our meaninglessness, our diffuseness in time which lets us drift through three score years and ten without a quarter as much significance as a picture establishes instantaneously.” 6 likes
“I always have beauty around me, for I have but to go to my piano, and trace one of the million designs that have been made by my masters.” 6 likes
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