Author(s): Janet Malcolm
'How had the pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survived the Nazis?' Janet Malcolm asks at the beginning of this extraordinary work of literary biography and investigative journalism. A biography of two of the most interesting literary women to emerge in the early 20th century. Gertrude Stein, American-born, moved to France at the age of 28, where she met her life-long partner, Alice B Toklas. Stein was a great art collector and was most interested in modernist art and artists as well as writers, and befriended and held salons with Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound and Sherwood Anderson among the guests. She died in 1946 and posthumously published more than 23 works across poetry, plays, screenplays and novels. The portrait of their relationship that emerges is unexpectedly charged. The two world wars Stein and Toklas lived through together are paralleled by the private war that went on between them. This war, as Malcolm learned, sometimes flared into bitter combat.