Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks were pivotal figures in the bohemian world of Paris at the turn of the century. Both were American expatriates, unconventional, energetic, flamboyant and rich. Their group of friends and lesbian lovers included Liane de Pougy the exquisite courtesan, the poet Renée Vivien, Dolly Wilde – niece of Oscar – who died of a drugs overdose; Gertrude Stein, Colette and Edith Stiwell.
For Natalie living was the ‘first of all the arts’ and although she published memoirs and poetry, her main drive was for passion and seduction. Romaine, on the other hand, lived for her painting. Despite their differences, these two dazzling women formed an intense relationship that lasted more than fifty years.
‘Souhami is an exceptionally witty and original biographer … her narrative is as spare and stylish as the dinners given by the anorexic poet Renée Vivien. Souhami presents rich ingredients – sexual transgression, madness, addiction, suicide – in chapters as light in texture as they are dense in flavour.’ – Sunday Times
‘Crammed with descriptions of exotic characters, their extravagances and eccentricities, the lilies, the pearls, the velvet-lined rooms’ – Sunday Telegraph