"Praising The Girl from the Fiction Department is easy. The hard part is figuring out what to praise first."-- Washington Post Book World . The portrait of George Orwell's second wife drawn by his biographers is a travesty. Determined to set the record straight, her friend Hilary Spurling, herself an acclaimed biographer, reveals the whole story of Sonia Orwell's sad and splendid life.Beautiful, intelligent, and idealistic, but also, as she grew older, belligerent and intimidating, Sonia was the model for Julia, heroine of Orwell's 1984 . Her friends and admirers included W.H. Auden, Lucian Freud, and Frances Bacon. She was Cyril Connolly's indispensable assistant on the influential literary magazine Horizon during the 1940s and in the '60s she co-edited the groundbreaking four-volume collection of Orwell's nonfiction writings. Nonetheless, she has most frequently been depicted as mean and mercenary. Spurling portrays the real Sonia Orwell in all her generous, spirited, ferocious, and self-doubting complexity.