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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

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Told in prose poetry this short novel is based on the long standing affair between George Barker and Smart. If you are looking to go on an emotional rollercoaster then pick this up and have a read but be prepared to be wonderfully drained by the end.

March 2010 Guest Editor Susan Fletcher on By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept...

I'll never be able to say that I enjoyed this novel. But no other book has had such force to it, or stayed in mind for so long afterwards. It is a slim book - a novella, really - but it is packed with all the passion, fear and anguish that Smart felt during her long affair with the married poet George Barker. Her story is tragic and awesome. Their affair lasted for decades, and Smart bore Barker four children - but he never left his wife, who knew of the affair. Her language is extraordinary - too dense, in places, for me to understand, but there are also many lines or expressions which are unbearably tender, or which bite very hard. It is, in many ways, an exhausting read - but it makes this list for being so wild and emotionally charged. It's an unforgettable book.

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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

Tells the story of passion between a man and two women, one of whom is his wife. From the author of "The Assumption of the Rogues and Rascals".


`Like Madame Bovary blasted by lightening ... A masterpiece.
Angela Carter

`At some point every good reader comes across By Grand Central Station I sat Down and Wept . And he or she recognises an emotion essential and permanent to us.
Michael Ondaatje

`A revelation...This short, powerful work has a profound influence on me and was one of the factors that made me want to be a writer.
Beryl Bainbridge

`I doubt if there are more than half a dozen such masterpieces of poetic prose in the world.
Brigid Brophy

`Explores a passion between a man and two women, one of them his wife - a love despairing and triumphant upon which the reader may gaze, awed, appalled, or even, perhaps, envious.
The Times

`Few writers have ever captured the full honesty of what passion means as shockingly and as piercingly as Smart. Today, its force still strikes us hard in the face, a beautiful and bloody blow.
Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday

`Constructed as a single, sustained climax, it is like a cry of ecstasy which, without changing volume or pitch, becomes a cry of agony.

`The emotion, the truth and abject affliction comes through...to move the reader, and even to awe him.
London Review of Books

About the Author

Elizabeth Smart was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1913. She was educated at private schools in Canada and, for a year, at King's College, University of London. Her landmark work, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept was published in 1945. After the war she supported herself and her family through journalism and advertising work. In 1963 she became literary and associate editor of Queen magazine but subsequently dropped out of the literary scene to live quietly in a remote part of Suffolk. She died in 1986.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th November 1992


Elizabeth Smart

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Flamingo an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


160 pages


Literary Fiction
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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