From Publishers Weekly
Though poet Natalie Barney and artist Romaine Brooks rubbed (usually more than) elbows with the artistic elites of Bohemian Paris, neither achieved fame nor acclaim. So it is that Souhami (Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter) focuses on their relationships with one another and their many lovers, producing a book that reads more like a lesbian soap opera than a biography. The author describes people each of the two American women encountered, but concentrates less on their interactions with one another than on Barney's affairs with, among many others, Liane de Pougy, Renee Vivien and Lily de Gramont. Barney "liked lots of sex, lavish display and theatricality, and wanted not to bind love to rules, particularly to the rule of exclusivity," Souhami explains. "She divided her amours into liaisons, demi-liaisons, and adventures, and called her nature fidele/infidele." By the time the discussion turns to Barney and Brooks-well past the book's halfway point-readers have been inundated with so many of Barney's flings that it is difficult to keep things straight. Souhami writes in short, declarative sentences ("Alice was seventeen. Her bereaved mother took her on a grand tour of Europe. Alice sketched impressions of Paris, Milan and Rome."), a style at odds with her libertine subjects that gives the impression she shortchanged texture and detail in favor of creating a tally of Barney's multitudinous rendezvous. Photos.
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An entertaining account of the couple's 50-year relationship - one that was never tested by the rigours of co-habitation. THE INDEPENDENT The book really takes off, when we come to Natalie's long affair with the portraitist Romaine Brooks... Diana Souhami is almost incapable of writing a clumsy sentence. SUNDAY TELEGRAPH For 50 years... the love of these two women lasted. Now, thanks to Souhami, it lives again. THE TIMES Souhami handles it with a light touch. SUNDAY TIMES Souhami tells their story in lush... prose, which perfectly suits the subjects and their exotic world. IMAGE MAGAZINE Two wealthy lesbians in 1900s Paris lead the jolly, over the top life you expect from the belle epoque. EVENING HERALD