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Ornament and Silence: Essays on Women's Lives From Edith Wharton to Germaine Greer
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Ornament and Silence: Essays on Women's Lives From Edith Wharton to Germaine Greer

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  26 ratings  ·  9 reviews
In these fourteen essays, Fraser focuses on women in love affairs, friendships, marriages, and families; in relation to one another and to the talented men who so often rendered them invisible. In Ornament and Silence we see Virginia Woolf, haunted and eventually destroyed by the sexual secrets of her childhood. We meet Flaubert's theatrically importunate mistress, Louise ...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published April 28th 1998 by Vintage (first published October 29th 1996)
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Aug 19, 2008 Eric marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I hefted and skimmed this today, and although I didn't buy it, it has much to recommend it, like a longish piece on Nina Berberova that contained many interesting details I didn't know (Fraser apparently knew Berberova in her last years). This book looks like one of that series of compilations of profiles highlighting the semi-obscure female halves of famous literary couples. There's Phyllis Rose's 'Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages,' Frances Wilson's 'Literary Seductions,' Francine Prose ...more
I really enjoyed the essays on the lives of Virginia Woolf, Nina Berverova, Edith Wharton, Paul Scott, Valentina, and Germaine Greer. I had a hard time with the last chapter, which was the author's dedication to an editor at the New Yorker. The writing was a little bit self-conscious at times I felt, but overall I really enjoyed this book!

The stars of the book tended to be more literary than anything else, and I found myself adding books to my list of books to-read with fervor. I think this was
Al Maki
The book is a collection of pieces from the New Yorker and Vogue that illuminate the lives and relationships of a number of women, mostly writers or artists: Virginia Woolf's with her half brothers, the poet Nina Berberova's with the Russian Revolution, a fashion designer whose husband carried on a long affair with Greta Garbo, the author's with Wallace Shawn. I found them fascinating and moving. I think Fraser ought to be more widely read. Her tone reminds me of MFK Fisher while her technique r ...more
This is a fantastic collections of essays, most of which first appeared in Vogue or The New Yorker. Kennedy Fraser offers the fascinating details of the lives and loves of various artists, along with thought provoking conclusions about how these details impacted the work of these creators.

It's all so beautifully written and accessible. If only all nonfiction could be this poetic, I would read more of it.
The final chapter pretty much tied together the chapters I hated (the one about the author going to a fashion show, coming back home, and deciding not to write about the fashion show, and the one about Miriam Rothschild, both of which just seemed shallow and uninteresting to me) and the others (which I really enjoyed). Overall, it was an interesting book and I'm glad I read it.
Kennedy Fraser has created a book of essays written from her time at the New Yorker magazine.

She spoke of her days there as being one of the few women writers in the stable.I especially liked her retelling of the meetings she had with Nina Berbernova and Miriam Rothschild, also the very "New Yorker", E.B. White style piece at the end.
Simply beautifully written essays on a variety of famous women throughout history -- Colet, Nina Berberova, Edith Wharton -- and on the author's own experiences, finishing with a romantic tribute to the old days of the New Yorker.
Essays on the lives of women, both famous such as Edith Wharton, and those less well known, but not any less interesting. Fraser's writing is beautiful, thoughtful and a pleasure to read.
This was one of the 1998 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
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