Savage Beauty

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What to expect

Savage Beauty is the portrait of a passionate, fearless woman who obsessed America even as she tormented herself.

If F. Scott Fitzgerald was the hero of the Jazz Age, Edna St. Vincent Millay, as flamboyant in her love affairs as she was in her art, was its heroine. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Millay was dazzling in the performance of herself. Her voice was likened to an instrument of seduction, and her impact on crowds and on men was legendary. Yet beneath her studied act, all was not well.

Milford calls her book “a family romance”—for the love between the three Millay sisters and their mother was so deep as to be dangerous. As a family, they were like real-life Little Women, with a touch of Mommie Dearest.

Nancy Milford was given exclusive access to Millay’s papers, and what she found was an extraordinary treasure. Boxes and boxes of letters flew back and forth among the three sisters and their mother—and Millay kept the most intimate diary, one whose ruthless honesty brings to mind Sylvia Plath.

Written with passion and flair, Savage Beauty is an iconic portrait of a woman’s life.

Critics Review

  • “Riveting and revealing.”

    New York Times Book Review
  • “An incendiary cocktail of literary ambition, fame, sexual adventure, and addiction.”

  • “Takes the whole of Millay’s heaving, grieving, ecstatic life into account in a way that is almost loving, always respectful, even when blunt truth and candor are necessary.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • “This account offers its readers a haunting drama of artistic fame. A true paradigm of literary biography, this finely crafted book is not to be missed.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • “Milford is both meticulous and dynamic in her assessment of Millay’s trailblazing work and complicated, controversial life right up to its sad and dramatic end.”

    Booklist (starred review)
  • “An essential biography of a unique and important poet—written with lush detail and delicious language, and displaying enormous care, craft, and compassion.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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