Publication Date: 2015-03-10
Wendy W. Fairey grew up among books. Her mother, the famous Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham, was F. Scott Fitzgerald's last love--he died in her living room in 1940. As part of a 'College of One' education, Fitzgerald would bring Graham literary classics from Charles Dickens to William Thackeray, Virginia Woolf, and Henry James. The protagonists of these books later became Fairey's intimates. Leaving her glamorous Hollywood world as a young girl, Fairey entered the English landscape of David Copperfield, whose sensibility and aspirations she intimately shared, not least because both suffered a terrible stepfather. Her many affinities with David squired her to adulthood, when she became an English professor and eventually a college dean. This memoir is the author's literary journey through the classic British novels of late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Besides David Copperfield, her traveling companions include Daniel Deronda, the hero of George Eliot's last novel, as well as its heroine, Gwendolyn Harleth, whose suffering resembled the author's own in her stressed marriage. Both characters become important presences, and like Daniel, Fairey learned late in life of her Jewish ancestry. Other fictional companions, including Jane Eyre, Mrs. Ramsay (Virginia Woolf), Tess (Thomas Hardy), and Isabel (Henry James), weave in and out, helping her understand her own identity and trajectory. In this inspiring book, Fairey shows how great literature is and can be forever an inspiration, a companion, and a guide to living.