Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Fountain Overflows” as Want to Read:
The Fountain Overflows
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Fountain Overflows (Aubrey Trilogy #1)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,083 ratings  ·  138 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, 416 pages
Published December 31st 1984 by Virago (first published 1956)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Fountain Overflows, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Pamela Kay Hawkins It is a clean book, make that refreshing. Consider the time late 19th, early 20th. Century. You don't get to view bedroom antics, but the people are…moreIt is a clean book, make that refreshing. Consider the time late 19th, early 20th. Century. You don't get to view bedroom antics, but the people are captivating, as is the situation in which West's characters find themselves. Smart and funny, with a dab of the occult, if that's what you're craving.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Paul Bryant
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
Feb 21, 2012 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
‘The Fountain Overflows’ was Rebecca West’s first book in twenty years; and it was to have been the first volume of a trilogy that would tell the story of her century. She didn’t live quite long enough to complete that story, but after reading this book I am eager to read the next book and to read the final, unfinished work.

This is a story that draws on the authors own life, without being entirely autobiographical; and it tells of growing up in a creative, musical family, from the perspective o
helen the bookowl
"The Fountain Overflows" is a beautiful story about four siblings who live together with their mother in England; three sisters and one brother. Their father is in the picture, but he's very distraught and seldom present in the house. We then follow these four siblings' lives together with their mother as they grow up and become more and more independent. This is also a story about music and talent and how that can affect your life in positive and negative ways.
Based on this synopsis, it is ver
This is the first book of the Saga of the Century (Aubrey) trilogy and I really liked it.

What can I say about this book? It's another little gem of the literature.

This is an auto-biographical novel set in early twentieth-century London, is narrated by a twelve-year-old girl who, along with her twin sister, is a piano prodigy. The girls’ mother--eccentric in her own way and their father is a controversial journalist. By the end of the book, he decides to take another turn on their lives.

Its seque
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
Dec 04, 2013 Sylvester rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Her conversation consisted of comments on our circumstances too bluff and too indelicate to be called sympathetic, though if they were not that they could have no purpose, and when she could think of no more she used to turn her pouches and her jowls on us children, and inquire whether we realized we must earn our livings as soon as possible, adding, “And there’ll have to be no nonsense about it either.” This phrase was surely as destitute of meaning as the baying of a dog ...

Concordance Under T
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
Oct 09, 2008 Ellen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
If you're looking for a book driven by plot, this isn't the choice for you.

The Aubrey family is strange, but talented; Mr. Aubrey's specific talent lies in keeping the family in debt, but Mrs. Aubrey and twin daughters, Mary and Rose, have a talent in music rivaled by few. The youngest son, Richard Quin, doesn't care about music so much, but is beloved by all who set eyes on him. The eldest daughter, Cordelia, isn't talented in music at all, looks different than the rest of the family, and is on
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
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
Feb 15, 2010 Maureen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Sonia Gomes
Sep 23, 2010 Sonia Gomes rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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

This is one of the most wonderful books I have ever read. Let's see if I can explain why. Rebecca West wrote 14 complete novels, three of which were published after her death in 1983. She was also a journalist, reported on the Nuremberg trials and wrote the famous Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1943), a travelogue, history and impassioned appreciation of the former Yugoslavia; a book I have started a couple times and will finish someday. She has great heart along with intelligence and writing skill
☽ 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 in
Jun 02, 2010 Josie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
A treasure. Rich, brilliant memories of growing up artistic at the turn of the century. Written with a close attention to detail, and a full understanding of the reality and intelligence of childhood, and how it changes over time. It has many ideas I haven't seen expressed so well before: an unsentimental description of a father who is an irresponsible "genius"--and the havoc he wreaks; an clear view of faded gentility; the smooth blending of the supernatural with the real; the difference betwee ...more
I'm not sure I've ever read a book that was equally so tiresome and so sublime. Sometimes I wanted to strangle West for her prosy affectations, but other times I felt I'd never read such finely observed dialogue, and often I reveled in her dry wit. For the most part I cared about the characters in spite of themselves.

I don't think i'd enjoy reading another book like it, but I'd like very much to have *had* the experience of reading one; that is to say, it's the kind of book that's best when it's
Wonderful book!
The first of a trilogy.
Utterly compelling writing.
The Aubrey family live in Edwardian London.
The father loves his children and makes them beautiful things but even so he struggles to keep them to the standard they are used to as he constantly speculates and leaves them in penury.
It is the Mother that keeps the family together even when the Husband leaves.
All is not lost though as the pictures they thought were just copies were in fact real.
I loved it and can't wait to read the nex
My mother is in a mountainous region tending to sick people for a few days and the inaccessibility redounds to her mystery. Parents are endlessly fascinating if only because they know your origin story better than most people, their roles in shaping your desires cannot be overstated. Rebecca West's novel has a perfunctorily dysfunctional family, but the idiosyncrasies are so typical of familial life that the resultant thesis seems to be that the spectrum of normal-aberrant doesn't really apply t ...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  ·  review of another edition
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
500 Great Books B...: The Fountain Overflows - Rebecca West 1 10 Jul 18, 2014 03:53PM  
NYRB Classics: The Fountain Overflows, by Rebecca West 1 6 Oct 23, 2013 08:49AM  
  • Angel
  • Lolly Willowes
  • The Slaves of Solitude
  • Invitation to the Waltz
  • Frost in May
  • Manservant and Maidservant
  • The Vet's Daughter
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • Wish Her Safe at Home
  • Great Granny Webster
  • The Outward Room
  • The Rising Tide
  • The Rector's Daughter
  • One Fine Day
  • A Legacy
  • Someone at a Distance
  • South Riding
  • Miss Mole (A Virago modern classic)
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...

Other Books in the Series

Aubrey Trilogy (4 books)
  • This Real Night
  • Cousin Rosamund (VMC)
  • Trilogia degli Aubrey

Share This Book

“You must always believe that life is as extraordinary as music says it is.” 86 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.” 13 likes
More quotes…