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A Favourite of the Gods and a Compass Error (Nyrb Classics) (Paperback)
A Favourite of the Gods is the story of two generations of a single family, united by a strong matrilineal bond but divided by the customs of their differing nationalities. Anna Howland, the matriarch and American heiress, born in the 1870s to a prominent, liberal New England family marries an Italian prince and makes her home in Rome; her daughter Constanza, the favorite of the title, inherits her mother's beauty, intelligence, and wealth, along with her father's Catholicism, which she soon rejects. When disaster strikes, Anna and the prince fall back on the standards of behavior of their disparate cultures; Constanza, with her European upbringing, is free to plot her own course, and she does so with daring, making an unconventional life for herself in England and on the continent during and after the First World War. Her own daughter Flavia is the heroine of A Compass Error, which begins where the first novel concludes. Flavia too is a brilliant young woman, though both more brash and more faltering than her mother, studying for her entrance exam to Oxford when she becomes involved with a mysterious woman whose arrival at a sensitive moment in Flavia's adolescence will alter both her and her mother's lives forever.
About the Author
Sybille Bedford (1911-2006) was born Sybille von Schoenebeck in Charlottenburg, Germany, to an aristocratic German father and a partly Jewish, Hamburg-born mother. Raised variously in Germany, Italy, France, and England, she lived with her mother and Italian stepfather after her father's death when she was seven, and was educated privately. Encouraged by Aldous Huxley, Bedford began writing fiction at the age of sixteen and went on to publish four novels, all influenced by her itinerant childhood among the European aristocracy: A Legacy, Jigsaw (short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize), and A Favourite of the Gods and A Compass Error. She married Walter Bedford in 1935 and lived briefly in America during World War II, before returning to England. She was a prolific travel writer, the author of a two volume biography of her friend Huxley, and a legal journalist, covering nearly one hundred trials. In 1981 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Daniel Mendelsohn was born in 1960 and studied classics at the University of Virginia and at Princeton. His essays and reviews appear regularly in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review. His books include The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; a memoir, The Elusive Embrace; and two collections of critical essays, including Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, published by New York Review Books. He teaches literature at Bard College.