Antonia White is best known for her masterpiece Frost in May, for having come back from Bedlam and madness, and for the public feud between her daughters over the editing of her diaries. This is the first biography to tell the complete story of a life courageously lived against most difficult odds: 'Oh I DID want to be happy as a woman...But I'm a monster and must accept being one. Not all writers are monsters. But my kind is.'
With full access to White's unexpurgated diaries, the analysis journals, the asylum records and her voluminous correspondence, Jane Dunn has explored the woman and the writer, the persecutor and the victim. This biography charts Antonia White's ambivalence about her parents; her three marriages, two of them unconsummated; her lovers; her friendships with poets and writers like Cyril Connolly, Dylan Thomas and Bertrand Russell; her secret war work; her bizarre thraldom to 'dominating women'; her harrowing relationship with her two daughters; and her endurance of the ravages of manic depression, experienced without the benefits of modern day therapy.
This is the story of a woman who - two generations too soon - attempted to live the modern female life of single parent and working mother, but longed for the artistic and intellectual stage. Antonia White wrestled throughout with the large questions of faith, the attractions and repulsions of Catholicism, the problems of being a woman and an artist. And over it all lowered the threat of madness. This book reveals her as a woman unafraid of extreme experience and honest enough to accept the consequences: self-obsessed, funny, fascinating and tragic - and ultimately heroic.