Three Lives tells the stories of three working class women — Anna, a conscientious but rigid serving woman; Melanctha, a worldly-wise and sensitive black girl; and Lena, a gentle but feeble-minded maid. Although these are relatively ordinary women, in the author’s hands their lives and minds take on extraordinary interest. Told in clear, carefully crafted prose, these stories are not only memorable works in themselves but an excellent entree to Gertrude Stein’s later work.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an American writer who spent most of her life in France, and who became a catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. Her life was marked by two primary relationships, the first with her brother Leo Stein, from 1874-1914, and the second with Alice B. Toklas, from 1907 until Stein’s death in 1946. Stein shared her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris, first with Leo and then with Alice. Throughout her lifetime, Stein cultivated significant tertiary relationships with well-known members of the avant garde artistic and literary world of her time.
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The good Anna was a small, spare, german woman, at this time about forty years of age. Her face was worn, her cheeks were thin, her mouth drawn and firm, and her light blue eyes were very bright. Sometimes they were full of lightning and sometimes full of humor, but they were always sharp and clear.– from Gertrude Stein, Three Lives
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