View Gallery


The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West

A Biography

List Price: $17.95

May 12, 2015 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 352 Pages | ISBN 9781619025455
Order Now From Indiebound

"Fast-paced and well-researched, The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West is a fine biography of a writer whose life and career was full of fascinating contradictions and intersections.” —NPR Books

Rebecca West was a leading figure in the twentieth century literary scene. A passionate suffragist, socialist, fiercely intelligent, Rebecca West began her career as a writer with articles in The Freewoman and The Clarion. Her first book, a biography of Henry James, was published when she was only twenty-four, and her first novel followed just two years later. She had a notorious affair with H.G. Wells, and their illegitimate son, Anthony, was born at the beginning of the First World War.

The author of several novels, she is perhaps best remembered for her classic account of prewar Yugoslavia, Black Lamb, Grey Falcon (published by Macmillan in 1941 and as relevant today as it was sixty years ago), and for her coverage of the Nuremberg Trials. When she died in 1983 at the age of 90, William Shawn, then editor-in-chief of The New Yorker, said, “Rebecca West was one of the giants and will have a lasting place in English literature. No one in this century wrote more dazzling prose, or had more wit, or looked at the intricacies of human character and the ways of the world more intelligently.” Formidably talented, West was a towering figure in the British literary landscape. Lorna Gibb’s vivid and insightful biography affords a dazzling insight into her life and work.

LORNA GIBB holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently Visiting Research Fellow in History at Essex University. She lives in London. Her biography of Lady Hester Stanhope, Lady Hester, was published to great acclaim in 2005.


“Lorna Gibb’s excellent new biography of the legendary British writer Rebecca West is full of those moments… It helps that Gibb’s prose is so earnest and energetic— much of this book reads like a novel, and while she doesn’t dwell much on West’s writing, she’s obviously a huge admirer of the author… It’s especially impressive that Gibb manages to chronicle West’s often complicated life in an even-handed, coherent way. Fast-paced and well-researched, The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West is a fine biography of a writer whose life and career was full of fascinating contradictions and intersections.” —NPR Books

“The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West is a fair, sympathetic but forthright portrait of its subject and should—so at least may be hoped—help her find new readers… this is a lucid and accessible biography of this endlessly fascinating woman. As Gibb says, West was a woman of ‘surprising contradictions,’ and this biography captures them all without losing sight of the very real person in whom they resided.” —Washington Post 

…[A]s Gibb reminds us, West’s work deserves to be remembered and appreciated in its own right.” —National Geographic

“Gibb’s meticulous biography… concentrates… on her magnetic subject’s complex personality and all the drama and controversy that make West’s life truly ‘extraordinary.’” —Booklist

“Gibb’s passion for her subject is illustrated in the writing’s rich detail; readers feel like they’re witnessing the described accounts firsthand. Using West’s correspondences and personal papers, media interviews, and conversations with the writer’s friends and employees, the author captures West’s point of view and describes how this complicated individual interpreted her relationships and experiences. Verdict: Gibb succeeds in offering an accurate, honest study of a multifaceted woman in this excellent biography.” —Library Journal Starred Review

“Lorna Gibb paints a vivid portrait in her compact new biography The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West. Her engaging book has had the benefit of greater access to West’s letters and papers afforded sine Anthony’s death in 1987.” —Barnes & Noble Review

“Gibb skirts neither her subject’s faults nor her virtues, but closely tracks West’s trajectory. As in a low angle, over-the-shoulder shot, we seem close to West, viewing the world from her point of view, while also focusing the camera’s eye on the world at large.” —The New Criterion

“A new biography of Rebecca West details the private battles of one of the most renowned journalists of the 20th century.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A heartfelt biography… This biography is fast-paced and written with sympathy for Cicely.” —The Missourian

Related Products