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The Girl from the Fiction Department

A Portrait of Sonia Orwell

List Price: $14.95

May 5, 2004 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.2, 208 Pages | ISBN 9781582432441
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"[Spurling] brings great sensitivity, exemplary research and an agenda, about which she is perfectly clear... A valiant and welcome rescue." —New York Times Book Review

The portrait of George Orwell’s second wife drawn by his biographers is a travesty. Determined to set the record straight, her friend Hilary Spurling, herself an acclaimed biographer, reveals the whole story of Sonia Orwell’s sad and splendid life. Beautiful, intelligent, and idealistic, but also, as she grew older, belligerent and intimidating, Sonia was the model for Julia, heroine of Orwell’s. Her friends and admirers included W.H. Auden, Lucian Freud, and Frances Bacon. She was Cyril Connolly’s indispensable assistant on the influential literary magazine Horizon during the 1940s and in the ’60s she co-edited the groundbreaking four-volume collection of Orwell’s nonfiction writings. Nonetheless, she has most frequently been depicted as mean and mercenary. Spurling portrays the real Sonia Orwell in all her generous, spirited, ferocious, and self-doubting complexity.

HILARY SPURLING is a British writer, known for her work as a journalist and biographer. Spurling was educated at Clifton High School, an independent school in Bristol in South West England, followed by Somerville College, Oxford.


“[The Girl from the Fiction Department] is timely and apt. It’s an excellent read too.” —The Spectator

“[Spurling] brings great sensitivity, exemplary research and an agenda, about which she is perfectly clear… A valiant and welcome rescue.” —New York Times Book Review

“Spurling’s brief, warm biography appears a touching act of friendship; if she perhaps overstates the case for Sonia, she makes clear that Sonia’s critics have exaggerated the case against her.” —Publishers Weekly

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