Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In each of the twenty-four short chapters of Restless Spirit: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, biographer Miriam Gurko chronologically traces the people, locales, and literary figures that influenced and shaped Millay or “Vincent,” as she was fondly called from childhood until her death. Beginning with the earliest and most important influences—reading, wildlife, the ocean, music, and, perhaps most of all, her beloved family—each chapter offers a portrait of Millay’s growth as a writer and as an independent, freethinking individual. Gurko’s emphasis upon these earliest influences provides an interesting and necessary foundation for the remainder of the book, and it is clearly evident that Millay’s poetry is deeply intertwined with her feelings from childhood.

Through personal interviews, memoirs, letters, and studies of the poetry itself, Gurko traces the transformation of Millay’s early talent through her greatest achievements and international acclaim. Gurko does not write in a difficult, scholarly tone; rather, the writing moves along in a quick and enjoyable fashion, emphasizing the life of the poet instead of an analysis of her poetry. Nevertheless, Gurko offers abundant details, facts, and references to the poetry, providing the needed connection between Millay’s personal growth and her poetic development.

After establishing Millay’s childhood home life in Camden, Maine, Gurko focuses upon her subject’s...

(The entire section is 476 words.)