Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter

by Diana Souhami

Paperback, 1998

Status

Available

Publication

St. Martin's Griffin (1998), Edition: 1st, 380 pages

Description

"Alice Keppel, the married lover of Queen Victoria's eldest son and great-grandmother to Camilla Parker-Bowles, was a key figure in Edwardian society. Hers was the acceptable face of adultery. Discretion was her hallmark. It was her art to be the king's mistress and yet to laud the Royal Family and the institution of marriage. Formidable and manipulative, her attentions to the king brought her wealth, power, and status." "Her daughter Violet Trefusis had a long tempestuous affair with the author and aristocrat Vita Sackville-West, during which Vita left her husband and two sons to travel abroad with Violet. It was a liaison that threatened the fabric of Violet's social world, and her passion and recalcitrance in pursuit of it pitted her against her mother and society." "From memoirs, diaries, and letters, Diana Souhami portrays this fascinating and intense mother/daughter relationship. Her story of these women, their lovers, and their lovers' mothers, highlights Edwardian - and contemporary - duplicity and double standards and goes to the heart of questions about sexual freedoms."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)

Rating

½ (42 ratings; 3.6)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Sarahursula
A middle-aged woman walks into a Parisian drawing room, eccentrically dressed, very good jewels and her face caked with makeup. She is rich, clever, nasty and cutting. She is Violet Trefusis and regularly laughed at and mocked by her fellow English expatriates. And yet as this brilliant book
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reveals Violet was the walking wounded from a love affair with Vita Sackville-West, an object more deserving of pity and sympathy and the victim of upper class hypocrisy and prejudice.

Vita is one of the most loathsome characters in this book. Yes she loved Violet but not enough to give up a life in England and elope with her to the continent. She wanted it all: respect, country house, famous garden, literary success, husband (unfaithful as often as she was), children and numerous affairs with men and women - she seduced Virginia Woolf and together they laughed at Violet behind her back. The price for Vita's 'happiness' was the sacrifice of Violet to her gorgon of a mother, the sleek and discreet Mrs Keppel (Edward VII's mistress) who bent her daughter to her will, married her off and sent her into exile.

Souhami is firmly in the Violet camp and this book is a testament to a woman who tried to live happily and honestly but was thwarted at every turn by her lover and family. It is one of the saddest books but thank heaven we live in modern times!
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LibraryThing member shojo_a
I'd read Violet and Vita's letters to each other a few years ago, so I knew all the basics, but it was nice to get Mrs. Keppel's story as well. Violet and Vita always strike as so sad, because it's so much misery and heartbreak and emotional cruelness and desperation, all because they couldn't be
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together - both because society wouldn't recognize a lesbian couple, and because Vita couldn't bring herself to leave the safe haven of her husband and her home, no matter how much she loved Violet. The power of society and overbearing mothers.

Finishing it, I just kind of feel sad, because Vita really was Violet's once in a life time love, and she never really found anything to replace her, just kind of ended up becoming a parody of her mother and all of the values Violet had hated.
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LibraryThing member shojo_a
I'd read Violet and Vita's letters to each other a few years ago, so I knew all the basics, but it was nice to get Mrs. Keppel's story as well. Violet and Vita always strike as so sad, because it's so much misery and heartbreak and emotional cruelness and desperation, all because they couldn't be
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together - both because society wouldn't recognize a lesbian couple, and because Vita couldn't bring herself to leave the safe haven of her husband and her home, no matter how much she loved Violet. The power of society and overbearing mothers.

Finishing it, I just kind of feel sad, because Vita really was Violet's once in a life time love, and she never really found anything to replace her, just kind of ended up becoming a parody of her mother and all of the values Violet had hated.
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LibraryThing member ponsonby
This book tells the story of Alice Keppel, mistress of Edward VII, and her daughter Violet Trefusis, who was famous mostly for her lengthy and tortuous relationship with the writer Vita Sackville-West. Violet is the second, perhaps the main, subject of the book.

It can be viewed as a hatchet job on
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Vita Sackville-West, but the author undoubtedly sees this further biography in her rewarding series of lives of rich lesbians as a necessary corrective to 'Portrait of a Marriage', which is a memoir about and partly by Vita Sackville-West published by her son Nigel Nicholson – a memoir which promotes an image of Violet as sexual predator and destroyer of lives.

The reader may come to feel that the truth rests somewhere in the middle, and that a relationship between a woman who prized honesty in relationships whatever the consequences, and another who was pragmatic in the way she ordered her life and marriage, was bound to come to grief whatever the circumstances and age in which they lived. But there is value in having Violet's side of the story, and entertainingly told, although the reader may revolt in the end from the sheer excess in the lives portrayed – excess of emotion, excess of money, excess of manipulation, excess of self-importance.

The book is unfortunately somewhat biased in other ways. Its portrait of Alice Keppel is savage and largely unsympathetic, ascribing to her various personal failings which in reality reflected no more than her social class in a certain age (for example, the way she raised her children when they were young). The book is highly critical of Edward VII, and although there is certainly plenty of material for criticism, it gives insufficient weight to his better qualities - those which led to many tributes after his death, not just from friends such as Lord Esher but also those with a more objective position such as Edward Grey, the Liberal minister.

The book is also inaccurate in some aspects which are not about the main story. Julian Grenfell, who is mentioned in passing as an acquaintance, was no jingoist as stated, even though he loved and celebrated battle and had a sometimes savage personality. And at one point a letter to Lord Kitchener, said to be seeking his help in December 1916, is reproduced. That is odd, since he drowned in the 'Hampshire' sinking in June 1916. More careful editing would have helped make the book even better.
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Awards

Lambda Literary Award (Nominee — 1997)

Language

Original language

English

ISBN

0312195176 / 9780312195175
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