Pentimento (Back Bay Books)

by Lillian Hellman

Paperback, 2000




Back Bay Books (2000), Edition: Reissue, 320 pages


A memoir that the author refers to as a book of portraits.


½ (98 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member TurtleCreekBooks
Wonderful collection of recollections written by the famous playright and screenwriter. Each story has a lazy, lyrical quality with characters drawn from her past, including long-time companion Dashiel Hammett (of Maltese Falcon fame). The stories begin in her youth migrating between New Orleans
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and New York City, and end up in Martha's Vineyard after the death of Hammett. The most famous story included in the collection if that of "Julia", which was later made into a move starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave (a very good movie too). The story recounts how Hellman, a Jew, was recruited by a wealthy (Christian) childhood friend to smuggle a large sum of money into Nazi-Germany to assist in saving Jewish and others from the Nazi regime. The story is a real nail-biter and makes Hellman into a heroine - almost a mini-Schindler. After the book was published, Mary McCarthy, another famous author who had many mutual associates of Hellman and whose most famously known work is entitled "The Group", publicly called Hellman a liar. McCarthy's position was that she knew the real women who was portrayed as the childhood friend in Hellman's memoir, and that this women said that she and Hellman did nothing of the sort. McCarthy rather famously stated that Hellman was a liar, and was always lying, and that every word she wrote was a lie "including the 'and' and 'the'". Hellman, not being one to take this sort of thing quietly, promptly sued McCarthy for defamation of character and the whole mess dragged on in court for a long period of time. I don't recall the final outcome, but I believe that it was inconclusive as McCarthy died before the final judgement was passed. Despite of the controversy, the book is beautifully and evocatively written.
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LibraryThing member Elpaca
After I read Kingsolver's The Lacuna, I fell back a bit to this moving memoir I read years ago. Joe McCarthy really existed, and all of his viciousness still resounds in the political dialogues of today.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Fascinating fictionalized memoir, this book is Hellman's best. Her facility for storytelling obviates the need for exact Truth.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Mishmash of truth and fiction told superbly.
LibraryThing member Marse
I enjoyed this book tremendously. I had no clue as to her background and am fascinated by her stories. Whether or not they are true (this was a kind of memoir) takes backseat to the wonderful descriptions of the characters and the events taking place. I saw the movie "Julia" when it came out, and
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the chapter follows the book fairly closely. It was disheartening to find out that Hellman was accused of using someone else's story (that is events about another real person who had no relationship to Hellman at all) and saying it was about her "friend". Well, aren't all memoirs to some extent "lies" in the end? I looked up the woman in question in Wikipedia, and sure enough, this woman's life mirrors Hellman's "Julia" almost exactly. Coincidence? I'll leave it up to you to judge. Nevertheless, I recommend reading this book, whether she was a liar or not, she is an amazing writer.
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LibraryThing member JRCornell
Seven autobiographical essays on people and things that deeply influenced twentieth-century American playwright Lillian Hellman's youth.


National Book Award (Finalist — Arts and Letters — 1974)
Writers Guild of America Award (Winner — Best Adapted Screenplay — 1977)
BAFTA Award (Winner — Best Adapted Screenplay — 1978)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

320 p.; 5.5 inches


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