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A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters,…
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A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers (edição 2011)

por Michael Holroyd

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1755121,006 (3.15)19
The author shares the stories of unknown women who played significant roles in the lives of prominent figures, including a mistress shared by the second Lord Grimthorpe and the Prince of Wales, a creative muse of Auguste Rodin, and a novelist lover of Vita Sackville-West.
Membro:Tara_Kelly
Título:A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers
Autores:Michael Holroyd
Informação:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2011), Hardcover, 272 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
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A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers por Michael Holroyd

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Mostrando 5 de 5
Interesting in parts, but strangely organized and told in a way that makes it very easy to lose track of who's who. Well-written, of course. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Interesting in parts, but strangely organized and told in a way that makes it very easy to lose track of who's who. Well-written, of course. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
This is a very bizarre biography of sorts. It seemed like the author changed the goal of the book between the first chapter and the last, and I'm still not certain what it was to begin with.
The highlight (to me) is the bust of Medusa that Vita Sackville-West gives her lover Violet as a wedding gift, and that it did not signal the end of their relationship. That detail alone warrants 3 stars. ( )
  lexmccall | Sep 3, 2014 |
In A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers, Michael Holroyd unravels the lives of three early twentieth century women, and joins them together through loose connections to Ernest Beckett, the second Lord Grimthorpe, and his Italian residence, the Villa Cimbrone. If this sounds a bit obscure, well, it is. Holroyd set out to write "not so much a traditional biographical narrative, but ... a set of thematically related stories" about three interesting, if lesser-known, women.

The first, Eve Fairfax, nearly married Beckett after the death of his first wife. Beckett commissioned a bust from the French sculptor, Rodin, but was ultimately unable to pay for the work. Eve's reasons for refusing Beckett are unclear. She spent most of her life in poverty, living off various friends and lugging around a huge book in which her visitors composed pithy thoughts. The second woman, Catherine Till, believes herself to be the illegitimate daughter of Beckett's grandson. Holroyd accompanied Catherine on a research project at the Villa Cimbrone. And finally, there is Violet Trefusis, the best known of the three. An author who had a notorious affair with Vita Sackville-West, Violet was likely Beckett's illegitimate daughter, the result of his affair with Alice Keppel (later the mistress of King Edward VII).

Each woman's story is interesting in its own right, as is the allure of Villa Cimbrone and the many literary figures and society members who graced its halls. As a fan of Virago Modern Classics, I especially enjoyed reading Violet's story. Holroyd presents a fairly balanced picture of the woman and her controversial romantic liaisons. On the one hand I felt sorry for her, forced by her family to marry a man and cover up her lesbian relationships. On the other hand, her arrogant, controlling nature made her a less sympathetic figure.

I was also intrigued by Holroyd's attempts to assemble a coherent history, when in fact many trails go nowhere, DNA evidence is not available, and there are no tell-all documents or definitive sources. And then there's the theme of illegitimacy, which manifests itself in various ways:
Illegitimacy is a word with several meanings. Ernest’s wife Luie was to die in her twenties producing a legitimate heir to the Grimthorpe title. Eve Fairfax was illegitimate in the sense that, not marrying Ernest, she lost her legitimate place in society. Her Book is a unique testament to the enduring pride that kept her afloat. And then there is Ernest’s extraordinary illegitimate daughter Violet who, exiled from England, was to compensate for her outcast state by claiming the King of England as her father. Such fantasies were a balm for the pain of lost love. But fact and fantasy are held in subtle equilibrium in the best of her novels, which may yet find a legitimate place in European literature for the name Violet Trefusis.

Holroyd's style, mingling traditional biography with personal experience, results in an engaging book which will appeal to anyone who enjoys English history and literature. ( )
3 vote lauralkeet | Nov 22, 2011 |
I very much enjoyed the earlier part of this book, centring around the life and various loves of Ernest Beckett, 2nd Lord Grimthorpe. It was a glittering tangle of mysteries and infidelities. In these ‘Google’ days I was able to follow up references and was fascinated by the vignettes of fashionable life illustrated by José Dale-Lace in South Africa. The portrait of José is particularly fine.
All roads seem to lead to Villa Cimbrone, and Holroyd, of course, travels there. The description of his visit with Catherine Till brings those mysteries of the past into a new, and current focus.
Seven years later he invited back to the Villa Cimbrone by Tiziana Masucci. Chapter Five, ‘Excitements, Earthquakes and Elopements’ continues the autobiographical theme, as Tiziana’s own absorption with Violet Trefussis is explored. From then on, however, the book seemed to me to lose its focus, and to descend into yet another episode of the long-running and oft explored Vita-Violet (+Virginia) saga—albeit seen heavily from Violet’s point of view.
One expects that all this will lead back, in some way, to the Villa Cimbrone, but it really doesn’t. The Villa makes a fleeting, and rather token appearance, in the Epilogue, but only as a symbol, and one very loosely connected to Violet herself.
Lady Sackville and Mrs Keppel might almost be seen as unifying characters in this book, sailing like imperious galleons, getting closer and closer to the waterline as the book progresses, until, with little ceremony, they sink. ( )
  ChrisSterry | Sep 29, 2011 |
Mostrando 5 de 5
The plot contains such frequent scenes of sex, confrontation, cruelty and humiliation, set across Europe, from Cornwall and London to Paris and Monte Carlo (for gambling, dancing and novelizing), that it suggests some Hollywood executive has been sleeping on the job — or has succumbed to sequel-itis — in not turning their story into a film. Their passion makes Henry and June look lame, and, in the role of chronicler, Anaïs Nin should be afraid of Virginia Woolf.
adicionada por DieFledermaus | editarNew York Times, Toni Bentley (Aug 4, 2011)
 
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To Tiziana who introduced me to the novels of Violet Trefusis. / And to Catherine who helped me to understand / Ernest Beckett and Eve Fairfax.
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Now she recalled those empty words that the English used over and over again - effusions of hot air over a sterile land: 'really', 'certainly', 'indeed' and 'Oh' and then 'Ah'. (p. 29)
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The author shares the stories of unknown women who played significant roles in the lives of prominent figures, including a mistress shared by the second Lord Grimthorpe and the Prince of Wales, a creative muse of Auguste Rodin, and a novelist lover of Vita Sackville-West.

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