Julie's Reviews > Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford
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's review
Feb 05, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: bio-autobio-memoir, read-2010, book-club-selection
Read from February 05 to 13, 2010

A few thoughts as I continue to reflect on this book and ESVM.

There was so little social/historical context until ESVM marched in protest for Sacco and Vanzetti- so little sense that the poet was aware of and engaged in a world beyond what gave her immediate pleasure. Little mention of WWI, the flu (except for ESVM's ode to a lost college mate), the women's suffrage movement- I felt a little lost in trying to place the poet's open sexuality, her college and young adult affairs in relation to what was happening in society at the time- or at least the society in which she operated.

The same could be said for the behavior of her mother and grandmother- the courage it must have taken to walk away from marriages at the turn of the century and earlier.

I found the style of speaking- in correspondence between ESVM and her sisters, mother, lovers, friends, so bizarre, cloying, slightly deranged. Was this typical of the era, of people in these social strata (ESVM straddled high and low society)? Her poetry seems so old-fashioned for her time- 19th century wind swirling through dark English moors kind of stuff. I know very little of poetry, so would perhaps benefit from an analysis of ESVM works.

Yet, after reading this bio, I have little desire to explore her poetry. If Milford's portrayal is an accurate one, the poet is a creature I find repulsive- so needy, manipulative, little deserving of sympathy. What is fascinating is her obvious charisma- the wand of charm she wielded was so powerful that everyone swooned in her presence, with little to show but heartbreak and strangely-written letters.
It's difficult to assign this stars- I thought it was very well-written, but didn't care a whit for EsVM- who was mostly a self-absorbed, nasty, ill, manipulative wench. But I need to think about it all for a bit.

PCC-Chicks Book club read for March.

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Reading Progress

02/08/2010 page 100
16.45% "Vincent takes on NYC. The Millay-Buzzell women are amazing- so fierce and independent!"
02/09/2010 page 150
24.67% "Self-absorbed, vain, manipulative...and a genius in the making."
02/11/2010 page 208
34.21% "Vincent does Paris..."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Julie :) I work with some pretty amazing women!

Julie I started this a few years ago and left it, because- I don't know- it felt like too much work at time. I fear feeling the same this go around- now that spring is knocking on the door, I crave easily-obtained delights! I'll plug along...

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