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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Life and Death of Harriet Frean (1922) by May Sinclair

Author May Sinclair, early modernist

Book Review
Life and Death of Harriet Frean (1922)
by May Sinclair

   May Sinclair is credited on her Wikipedia page with coining the term "stream of consciousness" in a piece of literary criticism.  Her Life and Death of Harriet Frean- more a novella (52 pages) then a novel per se, traverses vast distances of time in between paragraphs, and is coupled with her developing interest in the emerging field of psychiatry and the idea of the unconscious.  

  Life and Death of Harriet Frean is the LAST unread book I had on my Kindle- I lost the device some months ago on the train between Los Angeles and San Diego, meaning since then I've had to read Kindle books on my Nokia phone- which sucks. I haven't bought a new one because the titles after the mid 1920s are no longer free, I moved next door to the San Diego Central Library AND reading works of modernism on your cell phone is a draaagggggggg.

 Trying to read a book on a phone is disorienting enough without having to deal with stream of consciousness, abrupt shifts in time and location and experiments in grammar and vocabulary.   In a little over 50 pages, Sinclair covers the entire life of her subject. It's a study in loneliness and regret, about a woman who doesn't marry, doesn't bear children, because of her complex feelings for her family. It's dizzying how fast Sinclair moves Frean from her childhood to death in the blink of the eye. 

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