Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and…

A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman (edition 2012)

by Alice Kessler-Harris

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
621191,731 (3.63)4
Title:A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman
Authors:Alice Kessler-Harris
Info:Bloomsbury Press (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 448 pages
Tags:Biography, Communism

Work details

A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman by Alice Kessler-Harris



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 4 mentions

Why has provocative author Lillian Hellman, who was admired during her lifetime for being blunt and outspoken, now become the archetype for lying hypocrisy? That’s one of the questions historian Alice Kessler-Harris pursues in A Difficult Woman, a detailed and fascinating examination of Hellman’s life with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the quirks and conundrums of the artistic, political and intellectual spheres of America in the twentieth century. Rather than a strictly chronological account, A Difficult Woman is organized by topics that range from Hellman’s unconventional love life with Dashiell Hammett, the various stages of Hellman’s writing career which are all united by the desire to shed light on moral issues, the ongoing allegations that Hellman was a communist including her celebrated appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and Mary McCarthy’s infamous accusation that every word Hellman wrote is untrue, even including “and” and “the.”

Hellman was and is considered “difficult” because her public persona was determined, uncompromising, controlling and relentless, but when people met her they were often surprised by her lady-like softness. Her large heart drew friends to her, but her irascibility, especially after her first stroke in 1974, pushed them away. Though publically linked with many liberal political causes in her life, Hellman was not someone to blindly follow a party line. She often found herself in a no man’s land between powerful competing ideologies and worldviews such that even today, more than a quarter century after her death, the mention of her name can unleash a surprising amount of caustic vitriol. Hellman was one of a group of people in the 1930s who thought communism could bring about a more perfect egalitarian democracy. When she finally changed her mind about that, she still believed the extremes of American anti-communism were a greater threat to personal liberty and freedom of speech than communism itself, a viewpoint that offended even liberals like Mary McCarthy and that led to charges from both the left and right that Hellman was a Stalinist. A Difficult Woman is a well-researched and persuasive portrait of a catalytic twentieth century personality. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Feb 20, 2012 |
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

A provocative assessment of the controversial playwright challenges the opinions of her detractors while exploring contradictions in her character, from her non-practice of Judaism and her impassioned but nonpartisan political views to her sexual freedom in spite of a scorn for the women's movement and her writing of memoirs that repeatedly questioned the authenticity of memory.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
17 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (3.63)
3 1
3.5 1
4 2

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,152,664 books! | Top bar: Always visible