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Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter Paperback – 4 Jul 2013

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Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter + Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles + Portrait Of A Marriage: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (4 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178087880X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780878805
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 3.2 x 13.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 512,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'Fascinating and richly textured, Souhami's style is vital, brave and full of flair' Kennedy Fraser, New York Times.

'Unnatural vices, acts of illicit passion, kings, mistresses, elopements, extravagant riches - this book has them all. A wonderful story, wonderfully told' Christopher Hudson, Daily Mail.

'Souhami uses historical lives to illuminate more than private passions. Funny and precise' Kathryn Hughes, New Statesman.

'Souhami has a Midas touch with words. Her narrative sparkles' Nigel Nicolson, Sunday Telegraph.

From the Back Cover

Alice Keppel, lover of Queen Victoria's son Edward VII and great-grandmother of Camilla Parker-Bowles, was the acceptable face of Edwardian adultery. It was her art to be the king's mistress yet to laud the Royal Family and the institution of marriage. She partnered the king for yachting at Cowes and helped him choose presents for his wife Queen Alexandra while remaining calmly married to her complaisant husband George. But for her daughter Violet, passionately in love with Vita Sackville-West, romance proved tragic and destructive. Mrs Keppel used all the force at her command to suppress their affair. This fascinating and intense mother-daughter relationship highlights Edwardian and contemporary duplicity and double standards and goes to the heart of questions about the monarchy, family values and sexual freedoms.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Feb. 1999
Format: Paperback
Diana Souhami manages to find a new side to the famous story of Violet and Vita as documented in Portrait of a Marriage and elsewhere. This is the story of two women both fascinating in their own right. By examining Violet's relationship with her mother, Alice Keppel, who was mistress of Edward VII and a very powerful woman the author manages to give a fascinating insight into the psychology of Violet who ultimately cuts a tragic figure. She seems to have had one truly passionate love in her life, namely Vita Sackville West, and never really to have recovered from the breakdownof this relationship. An excellent book and worth reading for the story of both mother and daughter.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Phillysound2 VINE VOICE on 24 July 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a terrific read. I couldn't put the book down. It doesn't have Violet Keppel Trefusis (1894-1972) in the title but it's essentially about her. It's the first book I read beyond Vita Sackville-West's memoire of her affair with Violet in Nigel Nicolson's 'Portrait of a Marriage' and after watching the excellent BBC dramatisation. Like other books that focus on Violet including 'Portrait...' it comes startlingly alive when we get to the relationship with Sackville-West; this is the book's tour de force. This book gives the reader a much more comprehensive contextual understanding of this period including excellent portraits of all the main actors and Violet's extraordinary childhood, the hypocritical Edwardian mores and values that Violet found so offensive, and, the forces of powerful, beloved, trust fund holding mothers, especially, Alice Keppel. Violet was the product of one of Keppel's affairs probably before she met King Edward VII; Violet never knew who her true father was.

The book includes valuable quotes from published and unpublished sources. It firmly sides with Violet. Souhami appreciates Violet's vanquished quest for truth and honesty and makes her tragedy painfully palpable - we see the smash coming and know it will be terrible. This is Souhami's defense of Violet and her response to 'Portrait of a Marriage'. Vita on the other hand is not treated sympathetically.

Souhami rushes through Violet's later life offering selected vignettes of Violet as a troubled, deluded woman who was 'unaware of the figure she cut'. She says 'Her messiness, her chaos, her constant painting of her face, seemed to signal inner distress.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback
I had hoped to enjoy this book more than I did. You would think a book about Edward VII's Royal Mistress Alice Keppel and her daughter Violet's passionate and destructive lesbian love affair with Vita Sackville would be a fascinating, revealing, utterly engrossing read. And yet somehow this book never really connected with me. I felt like Diana Souhami never really scratched the surface of her subjects, never really made an effort to delve below that glossy veneer. There was absolutely no attempt to understand Mrs Keppel or Violet, no analysis of their lives and actions. Whereas normally you would say biography brings a personality to life, this book just painted a picture. And not an especially attractive one, at that!

Mrs Keppel comes across as an unfeeling mother more concerned with appearance, propriety and material possessions than her daughter's feelings; Vita is a thoroughly selfish individual, using and dropping lovers at whim, unwilling to commit to Violet yet continually keeping her dangling with promises of love and fidelity and freedom; and Violet is naive, emotionally unstable, irresponsible, selfish as a child. Quite an unsympathetic cast of characters all round. World Wars One and Two seems to just waft past them all with no impact or effect. Souhami's tone is so distant and flippant than one finds it impossible to determine whether she finds her subjects appealing or utterly ridiculous. For myself, the latter, most decidedly so.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
This book chronicles the life of Violet Keppel later Violet Trefusis. The author uses the two main relationships in her life, with her mother Alice Keppel (mistress of Edward VII) and her lover, Vita Sackville-West, to try to understand the complex and tragic life of this woman who seems to have been born in the wrong time.

Violet's enduring and passionate love for Vita was socially unacceptable to such a degree that it destroyed her life in England and her relationship with many of the people she loved. The affair ended in tragedy and destructiveness, much as it began, and you get the sense of Violet as a woman who was forever exiled from her own true life and feeling and forced to create an existence so peculiar that few could tolerate it in the long term.

It is a fascinating portrait of a long and wasted life.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 May 2010
Format: Paperback
A lot of people know about Mrs. Alice Keppel, but not as many people know about her daughter Violet. So Diana Souhami tries to set that right with the double biography "Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter" -- which is somewhat misnamed because it seems far more interested in Violet Keppel Trefusis than her royal mistress mama. Fortunately, Violet lived up to that interest: a young woman whose passions burned her out.

As is pretty well known, Alice Keppel was a famous London socialite and one of the favorite mistresses of the British king Edward VII.

But Souhami quickly turns attention to Violet, who showed her intense romanticism at an early age -- she became passionately attached to Vita Sackville-West (whose first love was her childhood home, Knole). Sackville-West married Harold Nicolson and entered into a comfortable, loving open marriage with him, but the marriage was splintered by her affair with Violet.

In short, Violet threw her heart, body and soul into her affair with Vita, and even tried to blackmail her by marrying a nice young solder named Denys Trefusis (but neglecting to mention her obsession with another woman to him). She craved a life together where they would live openly and freely for each other -- and when Vita turned away from her, her fixations on love and romance caused her life to crash and burn.

It's not hard to see why Diana Souhami is way more interested in Violet than in her mom -- Violet lived a life straight out of a soap opera, complete with heartache, steamy sex, illicit affairs, lives ruined, mass scandal, marriages under fire, the lesbian underground of Paris, and romantic dreams that could never realistically come true. Actually, soap operas wouldn't dare to write in stuff this juicy.
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