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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A biography of Alice Keppel and daughter Violet Trefusis
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...
Published on 25 Feb 1999

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter
Mrs Keppel and her Daughter was just 'ok' as the book is mostly about Mrs Keppel's daughter Violet and the lesbian relationship with Violet's lover, Vita Sackville West. The first few chapters are good with Mrs Keppel and the King but when the King dies, the story then goes on to Violet and Vita's relationship which is mostly repetitive throughout the years. I stopped...
Published 5 months ago by Betty Souter


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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A biography of Alice Keppel and daughter Violet Trefusis, 25 Feb 1999
By A Customer
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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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VIOLET TREFUSIS AND HER MOTHER: LOOKING FOR VIOLET AND FINDING HER HERE, 24 July 2007
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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.' How far Violet might have been damaged by the emotional consequences of her relationship with Vita, her declassee status in (and alienation from) England, her isolation (because she was different in many ways and could not 'fit in'), and her sometimes violent marriage with Denys is unknown. Souhami provides no analysis but she provides information; readers have to make their own judgement.

It must have been hard to 'be' Violet especially in her later years; her armoured bombastic,'camp' public personality hid too much of the subtle intelligence and sensitivity of her true self. She was too colourful, too strident, too clever and she drew strong reactions. It was only when her friends and aquaintences learned posthumously of the details of her affair with Sackville-West that they could view Violet through a more complex lens, but even then views would be polarised. She was hard to truly understand; she had many faces and she wrapped herself up in half truths because they were better than her 'real' life.

Coincidentally, Violet went into physical decline after the death of Vita but lived, as ever, to her limit. She had always aged prematurely and she suffered badly from osteoporosis. She died, bravely, from a related 'mal-absorption' illness which literally starved her to death. Despite the different sadnesses that haunt the book, Souhami also has a good eye for comedy and the absurd and I laughed out loud on a few occasions. Violet dies at the end of the book. I found that I missed her terribly because the book made me love her despite her flaws; this is a compliment to Souhami as well as to Violet. This book sent me on a trove for more Violet (who is well worth reading) who I take my imaginary hat off to for surviving as well as she did.

Souhami's is the best overall record of Violet's life however I would recommend that it be read alongside 'Violet to Vita' (her letters) and her memoire 'Don't Look Around' from which the reader can judge for themselves the big gap between her early private and later public persona. 'Violet Trefusis' by Philippe Jullian and John Phillips, the Eve section of Vita Sackville-West's 'Challenge' and Violet's novels 'Broderie Anglaise' and 'Hunt the Slipper' are also valuable references.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars tragic and compelling, 23 Oct 2009
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Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!, 11 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter (Kindle Edition)
Fascinating, couldn't put it down. My wife complained I didn't speak to her any more!

My only complaint was that sometimes the text left me wondering who was being discussed so had to go back a page or two to re-read it but still a very interesting and thoroughly enjoyable read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lush lesbian love, 17 May 2010
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E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
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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.

Souhami starts off on Alice Keppel, her genteely adulterous lifestyle and her distant relationships with her daughters. But as soon as a prepubescent Violet starts crushing on her future lover, the focus swings sharply to follow Violet alone. And Souhami's writing style is a delight in itself -- lush detailed portraits of Edwardian England, between-wars Paris, and the gorgeous but shallow world occupied by the wealthy and aristocratic.

As portrayed, Violet is a rather sad figure -- she believed that her love and passions should be freely and openly expressed, unlike her discreet mother. It's rather sad to see a romantic person who literally gave everything for love, and ended up burning out her own spirit. On the flipside, she also comes across as a horribly selfish person who didn't care who she hurt (like her poor husband) as long as she got to pursue Troo Wuv.

A more mysterious figure in this is Vita, who later went on to have an affair with Virginia Woolf and inspired the gender-bendign classic "Orlando." Souhami's never quite able to grab Vita's elusive motivations -- we're never sure how much she loved Violet or whether she was consciously dangling her on a string.

Though it has the title of "Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter," Diana Souhami's lush, intricate double biography is mostly focused on Violet -- selfish, scandalous, and tragic.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter, 3 July 2014
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This review is from: Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter (Kindle Edition)
Mrs Keppel and her Daughter was just 'ok' as the book is mostly about Mrs Keppel's daughter Violet and the lesbian relationship with Violet's lover, Vita Sackville West. The first few chapters are good with Mrs Keppel and the King but when the King dies, the story then goes on to Violet and Vita's relationship which is mostly repetitive throughout the years. I stopped reading it when I reached half way through the book as nothing new was happening.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not much detail of the time and to my mind ..., 29 Sep 2014
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Not much detail of the time and to my mind not written in words that make the book really interesting.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars struggle, 20 Feb 2014
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this book shouldnt be called mrs kepple and her daughter the majority of book is about vita sackvill-west and relationship with violet kepple
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the life and loves of the mistress to a king, 4 Feb 2014
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The book was extremely interesting. I have recently read a book about Vita Sackville, so this book about Mrs Keppel and her daughters covered some of the same period. Amazing how a mistress could become so wealthy and influential in a period which I thought was rather puritan. It seems as if the Edwardians were no different to the socialites of 2014. Luckily for them there were no paparazzi lurking in the shadows! However, I found the book to be quite repetitive and should have had better editing.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of the infamous Vita Sackville West and Violet Trefusis love story, 22 Jan 2013
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Forget Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Wolf ... the real love story was between Vita and Violet Trefusis, a decades-long star-crossed romance full of passion, obsession, promises made and broken, and heartbreak. Not to mention the interference of husbands, mothers, and others ... all in a time when such behavior was actually criminal. A really good read, and full of all the things you want to know about that you won't find in collections of their correspondence (which have their own merit).
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