Eleanor Herbert Brent is a beautiful woman - tall, blond and athletic. Sexuality forms her personality and as a young English graduate on the loose in London, she savours the capacity to excite - and sleep with - every man she meets. At the same time she is deeply conventional, believing in respectability, in the desire to be a wife and mother in the ‘dear old-fashioned way’. But real love between a man and a woman - something which could transform her into the passionate woman she really is - Eleanor determinedly avoids. When she is thirty she marries and has children. However, her wholesome but unsatisfying suburban life collapses with the departure of her pompous prig of a husband. She survives to find some success on the fringes of literary life, new lovers, new friends, but never to know herself.
Eleanor is a literary portrait on a magnificent scale, but she is more than that. Divided in herself and deeply self-deluded, Eleanor’s life is a powerful metaphor for the England of the 1920s to the 1950s through which she lives.
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