Tag Archives: Mother

Review: Divided Lives – Dreams of a Mother and Daughter by Lyndall Gordon

Divided LivesOn 26 November 2012, Time published this tiny obituary: “DIED Valerie Eliot, 86, who married TS Eliot in the last years of the great poet’s life; she edited an edition of his epic The Waste Land that included annotations by Ezra Pound.” Not even three dozen words to sum up the life of a woman who was infinitely more than just an editor of her famous husband’s most famous work. When they married towards the end of his life, “Eliot at last found himself ready for forgiveness. Horror, gloom, and penitence came to an end with his discovery of the unconditional love of a young woman,” writes Lyndall Gordon in TS Eliot: An Imperfect Life (1998).

In her biography of Eliot, Gordon retraces the poet’s insatiable search for perfection and his troubled relationships with the women who accompanied him on his quest: “His passion for immortality was so commanding that it allowed him to reject each of these women with a firmness that shattered their lives.” The exception was his second wife, Valerie, who despite being his junior by nearly four decades was the one who bestowed grace upon the final years of his life. Gordon’s biography emphasises the profound change Valerie’s love brought to Eliot in the light of all his previous precarious commitments.

In her biography Henry James: His Women and His Art (1998, revised edition 2012), Gordon sums up the distinguished writer’s ability to explore “the inward life: the unvoiced exchange and the drama of hidden motives … his skills, as well as a power, beyond that of any other man, to plumb the unknown potentialities of women”. James never openly acknowledged the influence such strong, independent women as the American writer Constance Fenimore Woolson had on his writing life and his heroines, but it was immeasurable, as Gordon’s biography shows. While in Venice last year, I was reminded of a striking scene she describes in the book: Henry James helplessly trying to drown Fenimore’s black dresses in one of the lagoons a few weeks after her death. Like balloons the dresses kept surfacing…

Continue reading: Review of Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter by Lyndall Gordon

Published by Virago Press, 2014

Spring in my Mother’s garden

Flowers4Flowers3Flowers2Flowers1My Mom has green fingers, and I am certain that her toes are green, too. Ever since I can remember, our house was full of plants and flowers. Often, they did not belong to her, but were only staying with us like guests at a spa or clinic, for treatment or convalescence. Wherever we lived, people soon came to realise that my Mom could heal or bring back to life the most neglected, suffering plant. And she could never say no to an abandoned philodendron or cactus. I haven’t inherited her gift, but I do try to keep my wild garden in Rosebank, Cape Town, happy. My Dad always said that one has to reach a certain inner maturity to garden happily and successfully. Not sure about the successfully, but there is happiness all around. Perhaps I am gradually getting there?
I recently visited my Mom in Uttendorf, Upper Austria, and took a few photographs of the flowers in her garden. Spring at her most beautiful!