Cover image for The last of the true believers : a novel
The last of the true believers : a novel
Birstein, Ann.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, 1988.
Physical Description:
pages cm
Format :

On Order


Author Notes

Ann Judith Birstein was born in New York City on May 27, 1927. She graduated from Queens College in 1948 and spent a year in France as a Fulbright scholar. While a senior at Queens College, she wrote a novel about a rabbi's secretary. The manuscript won a fellowship sponsored by the publisher Dodd, Mead and Company for $1,200. Star of Glass was published in 1950. Her other novels included The Troublemaker, Dickie's List, and Summer Situations.

She married literary critic Alfred Kazin in 1952 and they divorced in 1982. She also wrote several memoirs including The Rabbi on Forty-Seventh Street and What I Saw at the Fair. She taught creative writing at Barnard College, Queens College, and City College in New York and lectured at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. She died of lung cancer on May 24, 2017 at the age of 89.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This astute portrait of the academic community from the early 1950s through the 1970s is framed via the interfaith marriage of two writers. Twenty-two-year-old Sunny Mansfield has just written her first novel and applied for a fellowship in France when she meets the much older David Harvey, a brilliant poet. Bowled over by his inspired conversation and his worldly experience, Sunny eventually elopes with him to London, where they are married in a civil ceremony. Their marriage is a series of highs and lows: Sunny's growing reputation as a novelist is a sore spot with David, and his chronic unfaithfulness and intellectual disdain for her conversion to Judaism cause Sunny more than a few moments of despair. Memorable for its bitter portrait of the political infighting, bruised egos, and financial hardships that mark the high-powered literary world. JW. [OCLC] 87-31353

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sunny Mansfield and David Harvey seem the most mismatched of lovers. When they meet in 1951, David is 37 and divorced, a brooding, second-generation American-Jewish poet whose new book, an autobiography, has been called a ``small classic.'' Sunny, like her name, is blonde, 22, a WASP, and the daughter of a prominent Connecticut surgeon; her first novel is about a cleaning lady from Bridgeport. Sunny goes on a fellowship to France and, after a passionate courtship by mail, marries David the next year in London. Over the next two decades, Sunny experiences many metamorphoses. First she's the young mother and faculty wifea role she detestslater, riding on her husband's coattails, a member of the New York literati. Finally, her career takes off just as David's wanes. She finds her niche as a writer of women's literature, an accolade, as her editor points out, since only women read novels. In the meantime, their marriage has somehow come asunder. At one point Sunny mourns, ``They had squandered their luck''a comment that sums up their relationship. Perhaps it was David's affairs, perhaps professional jealousy, perhaps just the changing times; this novel, among other things, is about Sunny's consciousness raising. Birstein (Summer Situations) is a writer whose intelligence radiates through this engaging narrative. While she pokes fun at everyone involved in producing literaturewriters, editors, criticsthis is primarily a rueful story about the loss of passion. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Sunny Mansfield is a wide-eyed WASP of 22, her first novel just published, when she meets noted poet David Harvey, who's divorced, Jewish, and 15 years her senior. Instant attraction is followed by a long affair and a marriage typical of their times (early 1950s), with Sunny a supportive wife and mother following where David's work takes them. Problems abound during this tempestuous 22-year relationship: egotistical David philanders while Sunny remains blindly devoted; her work catches public interest and the rising feminist tide while his lags. But their story is superficial: Sunny becomes a recognized ``woman novelist,'' yet her dedication to her work is never explored, and her acceptance of David's behavior is incredible. Too brisk and blithe to engage. Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.