Books: Half Light

DIFFICULT WOMEN by David Plante Atheneum; 173 pages; $9.95

"We owe respect to the living; to the dead we owe only the truth," said Voltaire. David Plante has given very little of either to the subjects of this memoir. Among the three "difficult women" in question, only Feminist Germaine Greer emerges from Plante's portrayal with a shred or two of personal dignity. Novelist Jean Rhys, who died in 1979, and Sonia Orwell, George Orwell's widow, who died a year later, have been observed in the distorting half-light of their declining days, when illness and alcoholism had served to dim the mind...

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