(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The Fountain Overflows concerns the Aubrey family and their adventures and misfortunes as the four Aubrey children grow up. One of these children, Rose, is the narrator, and through her eyes the reader sees the events that affect the family, events as varied as a visitation by a poltergeist, murder, and poverty. Her childhood is not a typical one, and the difference can be attributed to her parents, the fountain that overflows, providing the children with a source of energy and an abundance of experiences.

Her handsome and eccentric father, Piers, is a newspaper editor and occasionally writes persuasive political tracts. Unfortunately, he can become so involved with his concern for justice that he antagonizes his friends and benefactors and ignores his family. At other times, however, he devotes many hours to carving intricate wooden toys for the children. Yet his compulsive gambling on the stock exchange has driven his family into poverty. Rose’s mother, Clare, gave up a promising career as a concert pianist when she married and began rearing a family. She notices keenly her husband’s lack of attention to the details of living. Being constantly in debt, dealing with bill collectors, and tolerating her husband’s infidelity, she has worried herself into a scarecrow of her former appearance, now “thin and wild-looking and badly dressed.” Because of her interest in music, however, she is able to provide her children, except for Rose’s older sister Cordelia, with a strong base on which to develop.

At the beginning of the novel, the family, previously subjected to sudden shifts in locale brought on by Piers’s inability to get along with his superiors and his colleagues, is in Scotland contemplating yet another move, this time to London. Since it is summer, though, the children and Clare stay on a Scottish farm while Piers begins his job as an editor for a small paper in London and prepares for their arrival. Farm life is wholesome and delightful for the children, but Clare is worried, as well she might be. Piers neglects to write, she discovers that he has sold her prized antique furniture, and as the summer draws to a close, she does not know the address of the London house to which she and the children must move.

London proves to be their home for several years as the children approach adolescence. Rose and her twin sister, Mary, planning to be concert pianists, are taught music by their mother. It is understood that they have inherited their mother’s talent. Unfortunately, Cordelia has not, but she persists in playing the violin. Unlike Rose and Mary, Cordelia suffers under her family’s poverty. She practices the violin desperately because she sees it as a means to a more...

(The entire section is 1119 words.)

The Fountain Overflows Bibliography

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Deakin, Motley F. Rebecca West, 1980.

Kobler, Turner S. “The Eclecticism of Rebecca West,” in Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction. XIII, no. 1 (1971), pp. 30-49.

Ray, Gordon N. H. G. Wells and Rebecca West, 1974.

Redd, Tony. Rebecca West: Master of Reality, 1972.

Wolfe, Peter. Rebecca West: Artist and Thinker, 1971.