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

Harriet Hume

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  143 ratings  ·  28 reviews
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 world, quickly parts from the mysterious lady. As they encounter each other over the years, Harriet’s intuitive powers continue to ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 1980 by Virago Modern Classic (first published 1929)
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 Harriet Hume, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Harriet Hume

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  143 ratings  ·  28 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Harriet Hume
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
This novel is bout Harriet Hume and Arnold Condorex. It is set in London somewhere around the 1920s. From the start, when they meet, an attraction arises. They meet and then they part. He glimpses her four years later. They meet again six years after that and then finally after another five years. Where will that first attraction lead?

However, it is not the plotline but rather how the story is told that will determine your appreciation of the book. The telling moves forward chronologically but
Apr 01, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
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,
The central plot is fine but...overly florid and wordy

I think I was supposed to like this book. I really tried. I do not think I got the point of Ms West's Style.

The plot is fairly straight forward. Harriet Hume is a beautiful professional pianist. Her lover is Arnold Condorex. Arnold is what the English would call a striver. Born into middle class or less, he is determined, At All Costs to be not merely rich and powerful, but accepted by those born to be rich and powerful.

His great skill is as
Dec 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Mentioned in, The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield.
Ruxandra Seniuc
Aug 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
Rebecca West is where the fun dies...
Dec 20, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. It's an original story about two people who initially meet and fall in love, but events happen to affect the relationship. The location is London in the 1920s and a lot of time is spent in Harriet's place of residence. The story centres on Harriet Hume, a young pianist and Arnold Condorex, a young politician. Over the next ten or more years we are provided with commentary on Arnold's career and life and to a lessor extent, Harriet's career and life. The writing is clever and an ...more
Book Wormy
Jun 06, 2015 rated it liked it
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,
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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
belva hullp
I thought I was going to like/love this book. I failed and failed miserably. Perhaps if the book had been a mere 150 pages rather than 300, perhaps if I had found the characters even somewhat believable as fantasies, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.........
The plot, if there is one, is that of a man with high expectations of his future drifting in and out of the life of an exquisite & mind reading sprite of a lovely but poor pianist.
He wishes to be rich and powerful at any cost and she seems
Dec 15, 2009 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 17, 2007 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 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 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.
Dec 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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 24, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
What a weird book!

I have so many questions. Is Harriet real? Is she a person, angel, ghost, or figment of Arnold's imagination?

Is Arnold the person we read about--up and coming statesman yada yada--or is he an unreliable narrator? Is this all a dream or some such? Can Harriet really read his mind or does she just use context clues? Doe she guess and understands his personality?

(view spoiler)
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This absolutely smacked of Virginia Woolf and her Orlando, in the greatest way -- and yet, still, it ends up becoming its own novel. After having finished, and looking back on the text, I can feel all of the things it's doing, while I cannot say for sure what they are exactly. It's the kind of novel that I don't think I could ever figure out entirely -- which might also be the highest praise I can give. Harriet and Condorex will live on in my thoughts until the next time I can give this one a go ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
This is a great story! Questions of predestination and fighting your fate, the idea of having "one true love" and being stalwart (or not) in one's devotion, the tendency of power to corrupt (the truth, as well as people), a lovely fairy tale or two tossed in.... Possibly because of the era (1929) in which this book was written, it's verbosity, the way in which it is arranged on the page, and the font used made it (sadly) difficult to enjoy.
John Gillespie
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm at a loss how to describe this novel. While it is titled after the female protagonist, the narrative spends most of its time in the mind of her one-time lover and admitted "opposite", Arnold Condorex, a grasping, venal man whom I disliked as much as I liked Harriet. I would recommend this to anyone in the mood for something modern like Joyce or Woolf.
Alice Yoder
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harriet can read Arnold's thoughts. Oh my, is that a good thing or a bad thing? She warns him, he doesn't listen, of course. A surprise ending, I thought. an enjoyable and quick read.
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Hmmmmm. Wouldn’t recommend this. Weird.
rated it really liked it
Apr 23, 2018
rated it really liked it
Jul 27, 2011
rated it it was ok
Oct 21, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Harriet Hume by Rebecca West 1 7 Apr 25, 2018 03:32PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The House of the Seven Gables
  • The Crime of Father Amaro
  • Oblomov
  • Marius the Epicurean
  • The Blithedale Romance
  • Mariana
  • Parade
  • By the Open Sea
  • The Night is Darkening Round Me
  • The Apple Tree (Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories)
  • The Good Soldier
  • Välkommen till Amerika
  • A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism
  • چنين گذشت بر من
  • A Hermit's Guide to Home Economics
  • Eugene Onegin
  • Hemsöborna
  • Chocky
See similar books…
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 ...more
“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.” 7 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.” 7 likes
More quotes…