Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice

This deceptively slim, eminently-readable dual biography of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas is packed with new ideas. Malcolm’s investigation into this amazing, unconventional partnership opens with an obvious question: How did a pair of elderly American-Jewish lesbians manage to survive in France under Nazi occupation? There’s no simple answer, and Malcolm eventually uncovers a series of possible explanations while she makes an intriguing analysis of Stein’s literary style. Malcolm interviews a number of authorities on the pair, and eventually begins to question the act of biography itself—logical, since that was Stein’s life work. But one thing becomes clear: Stein wrote with purpose and meaning, and her life provides the key to decoding her work.