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She then proceeded to fall out with everyone in America, too, and finally retired to Italy, where she lived in an apparently lesbian relationship with a younger painter, surrounded by cats.The tiny red-headed firebrand known as The Sparklet even fell out with the biographer, Martin Stannard, whom she had personally chosen to tell her life story.And she started casting around for female role models as she tried to get the male-dominated publishing world to take her seriously.One of her heroines was the eccentric poet Dame Edith Sitwell.Summoning him to Tuscany, she gave him a free hand to say whatever he wanted about her.But when she read the book he had written, she thought it too frank, and refused to allow it to be published.The divorced Spark, who had been living in miserable poverty in a London bedsit, was whisked off to New York, where she was transformed overnight from a tight-permed Scottish frump into an elegant New York socialite, mixing with the literary cream of her generation, including the feisty Norman Mailer. She bought herself flashy jewels and designer clothes every time a new book came out. But though no one, including the great writer Graham Greene, doubted her talent, Spark herself was difficult to love.
The couple sailed from Southampton in 1937, but the letdown was immediate. Sandy, her errant pupil, was based on Spark herself, who had spent most of her adolescence dreamily speculating in class about Miss Kay's love life, and whether she had ever been kissed.