Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978) was a poet, short-story writer, and novelist, as well as an authority on early English music and a devoted member of the Communist Party. Her many books include Mr. Fortune's Maggot and Lolly Willows (both published by NYRB Classics), The Corner that Held Them, andKingdoms of Elfin.
Alison Lurie is a former Professor of English at Cornell. Her most recent novel is Truth and Consequences.
"[The book] I'll be pressing into people's hands forever is "Lolly Willowes," the 1926 novel by Sylvia Townsend Warner. It tells the story of a woman who rejects the life that society has fixed for her in favor of freedom and the most unexpected of alliances. It completely blindsided me: Starting as a straightforward, albeit beautifully written family saga, it tips suddenly into extraordinary, lucid wildness." - Helen Macdonald in The New York Times Book Review's "By the Book.
Sylvia Townsend Warner's brilliantly varied and self-possessed
literary production never quite won her the flaming place in the
heavens of repute that she deserved. In Lolly Willowes, her
first novel, she moves with somber confidence into the realm of the
supernatural, and her prose, in its simple, abrupt evocations, has
something preternatural about it. This is the witty, eerie, tender
but firm life history of a middle-class Englishwoman who politely
declines to make the expected connection with the opposite sex and
becomes a witch instead.
-- John Updike Silvia Townsend Warner...is perhaps the most unjustly neglected of all the modern masters of fiction. She is remembered as a writer of historical novels, but her novels are written with such extraordinary immediacy that they stretch the possibilities of long-disparaged genera and blur the distinction between historical fiction and serious literature....Like the controversial movie Thelma and Louise, Lolly Willowes is [a] Rorschach blot that might suggest liberation to some readers and folly to others. It is an edgy tale that suggests how taking control of one's own life might entail losing control; it might even entail an inexorable drift toward an unknown and possibly disastrous fate. In short, Lolly Willowes would be an ideal book-club selection, sure to spark a rousing discussion.
-- Tim Walker, News-Press