An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir by Lillian Hellman is a 280-page hardcover published by Little, Brown and Company, stated first edition 1969. The dust jacket has numerous chips and tears along the edges. Inside, the book is slightly shelf cocked but is clean and unmarked. This is a reader's copy.
The plays of Lillian Hellman--The Little Foxes, Watch on the Rhine, The Autumn Garden, Toys in the Attic, and all the others--speak eloquently for themselves and for Miss Hellman's life in the theatre. An Unfinished Woman speaks for her life in the world outside. It is in no sense a predictable theatrical memoir. Instead, she offers a detailed, unsparing self-scrutiny and a passionate, sometimes comic, always candid account of her experience, whether in New York, New Orleans and Hollywood, in Spain during the Civil War, or in Moscow and Leningrad during the Second World War and twenty years later.
As this book makes clear, since childhood she has hated hypocrisy and refused to settle for soft answers, least of all from herself. The qualities she values most--that, in effect, she has been in search of--are courage, loyalty, and integrity, and she has found them in some of her closest relationships. Writing of herself as she was in her mid-twenties, aimless, discontented, and in want of an occupation, Miss Hellman remarks, "I needed a teacher, a cool teacher, who would not be impressed or disturbed by a strange and difficult girl." I was to meet him, but not for another four or five years." That man was to be Dashiell Hammett; and their extraordinary relationship, which continued for almost thirty years until his death in 1961, was central to her life, as it is in this deeply felt and personal memoir. In its later pages Miss Hellman includes a warm but unsentimental portrait of her old friend Dorothy Parker; a revealing chapter on her childhood nurse and her recently deceased housekeeper--two black women who profoundly influenced her life; and a moving description of Hammett in his later years and how their lives evolved as he wasted away from emphysema and cancer.
Miss Hellman is an artist whose horizons have always extended beyond the stage and its gossip: as an artist and individual her need has been for someplace else to go.Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 76-75019