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Diana Souhami is the author of many widely acclaimed books, and she has also written plays for radio and television. She won the Whitbread Biography Award for Selkirk's Island.
I was winning until I met your gaze...Gambling at the roulette tables of the Kursaal, Gwendolen Harleth glances up to meet Daniel Deronda's arresting stare. Striking, selfish and wilful, she is at that moment the mistress of her destiny. Years later, the flawed heroine and true protagonist of Eliot's last great novel writes her confessional to the man whose ever-imagined gaze has prevailed throughout her life. The egotism, naivete and sensitivity of her blazing youth is evoked with bittersweet wisdom; a passionate remembrance of the events leading up to the marriage that broke her spirit, and the loss of the man who broke her heart. Moving, original and elegant, this is a bravura re-imagining of the life of one of English literature's most multi-faceted and contradictory heroines.
I was winning until I met your gaze...Gambling at the roulette tables of the Kursaal, Gwendolen Harleth glances up to meet Daniel Deronda's arresting stare. Striking, selfish and wilful, she is at that moment the mistress of her destiny. Thirty years on, the flawed heroine and true protagonist of Eliot's last great novel writes her confessional to the man whose ever-imagined gaze has prevailed throughout her life. The egotism, naivete and sensitivity of her blazing youth is evoked with bittersweet wisdom; a passionate remembrance of the events leading up to the marriage that broke her spirit, and the loss of the man who broke her heart. Moving, original and elegant, this is a bravura re-imagining of the life of one of English literature's most multi-faceted and contradictory heroines.
Escape to the remote island of Pitcairn and let the author weave a story of life there now and life when the first settlers from The Bounty landed there over 200 years ago. Rich in description, you can imagine yourself there and gain a great history lesson on the most famous mutiny ever to take place, with the authors on embellishments perhaps. A perfect summer read to take you away to a tropical island, if only in your imagination
In the summer of 1945, just after the Nazi occupation, Truman Capote visited Romaine Brooks's abandoned studio in Paris. The portraits there, large and imposing, were of women: Ida Rubinstein, Una Troubridge, Gluck, Elisabeth de Gramont, Renata Borgatti, Bryher. Romaine's lover Natalie Barney said that Paris had been 'the Sapphic Centre of the Western World', and these women defined it. Capote himself called them 'the all-time ultimate gallery of famous dykes'. This book is about that gallery and celebrates the central role they played in the cultural revolution that was Modernism. Modernism happened in Paris, and these women were Paris. Shocking, free, blatant, they weren't just expats. They'd grouped together to create their own world, far from the restrictions of home. They were talented, often well-off, and lesbian. They answered to no one but themselves. Among them, for example, was Sylvia Beach, the American who set up the legendary Shakespeare & Co in 1919 and published Joyce's Ulysses when nobody else dared to, as well as Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness which was burned in Britain. The shop became the unofficial meeting place of the Modernists. Gertrude Stein, Beach's friend, bought the work of her friends - Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso, Gauguin - when they were young and unknown. Hemingway, Scott Fitzerald, Paul Bowles and others gravitated to the shop and to the world around these women. Told in the spirit of Stein's Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, or Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, this book is as colourful and exuberant as the women themselves.
Edith Cavell was born on 4th December 1865, daughter of the vicar of Swardeston in Norfolk, and shot in Brussels on 12th October 1915 by the Germans for sheltering British and French soldiers and helping them escape over the Belgian border. Following a traditional village childhood in 19th-century England, Edith worked as a governess in the UK and abroad, before training as a nurse in London in 1895. To Edith, nursing was a duty, a vocation, but above all a service. By 1907, she had travelled most of Europe and become matron of her own hospital in Belgium, where, under her leadership, a ramshackle hospital with few staff and little organization became a model nursing school. When war broke out, Edith helped soldiers to escape the war by giving them jobs in her hospital, finding clothing and organizing safe passage into Holland. In all, she assisted over two hundred men. When her secret work was discovered, Edith was put on trial and sentenced to death by firing squad. She uttered only 130 words in her defence. A devout Christian, the evening before her death, she asked to be remembered as a nurse, not a hero or a martyr, and prayed to be fit for heaven. When news of Edith's death reached Britain, army recruitment doubled. After the war, Edith's body was returned to the UK by train and every station through which the coffin passed was crowded with mourners. Diana Souhami brings one of the Great War's finest heroes to life in this biography of a hardworking, courageous and independent woman.
Alice Keppel, lover of Queen Victoria's son Edward VII and great-grandmother of Camilla Parker-Bowles, was the acceptable face of Edwardian adultery. 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 repress the relationship in a breathtakingly cruel display of hypocrisy. This account, by one of our most original and acclaimed biographers, of a 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.
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Tokas were the talk of pre-war Paris. Photographed by Cecil Beaton and Man Ray, painted by Picasso and written about by Hemingway, they were at the heart of Parisian cultural and literary life. Alice, convinced that Gertrude was a genius, cooked for her, typed her manuscripts and fought to obtain the fame she was convinced Gertrude was due. Alice said Gertrude was the happiest person she had ever known, and was besotted with her for the many years they were together. They were indomitable, charismatic, and wildly eccentric, driving around in Auntie', their Ford, with Basket, their cherished poodle. In Gertrude and Alice, award-winning writer Diana Souhami brings these two extraordinary women, and the fascinating world in which they moved, to vivid life.
Radclyffe Hall was born in 1880 in Bournemouth in a house inappropriately named 'Sunny Lawn'. Her mother drank gin in an attempt to terminate the pregnancy, and her father fled the family home. At the mercy of a violent mother and sexually abusive stepfather, her life changed when at the age of eighteen she inherited her father's estate of GBP100,000. She was free to travel, pursue women and write - most notably The Well of Loneliness, her famous novel about 'congenital inverts', which was declared 'inherently obscene' by the Home Secretary and banned. In this brilliantly written, witty and satirical biography Diana Souhami brings a fresh and irreverent eye to the life of this intriguing and troubled woman.
Greta Garbo first met society photographer Cecil Beaton in Hollywood in 1932. Both were caught in turbulent same-sex affairs. Yet Garbo flirted and danced with Beaton, told him he was pretty, presented him with 'a rose that lives and dies and never again returns' and at dawn drove away in her black Packard. Cecil took the rose home to England, framed it in silver and hung it above his bed. Fifteen years later Greta and Cecil met again. For her it was an idle flirtation. For him it fuelled his ambition to photograph her, to be like her and to marry her - an obsession that became a betrayal. Souhami draws on diaries, memoirs, letters, photographs and films to reveal the truth behind this fascinating and narcissistic relationship.
Alexander Selkirk was marooned on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez in 1704 after a row with the captain of his ship. He had been on a treasure seeking adventure to the South Seas. His abandonment meant he was alone for four years and four months, dependent for survival on what the island offered. When rescued he was clad in goat skins and had forgotten how to speak. His story inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe, the first English novel. In this startlingly original book, which is as much a biography of the island as the man, award-winning author Diana Souhami draws on contemporary memoirs, letters and documents, as well as her own experience of the island to evoke one man's struggle with solitude, fate and his environment.
Gertrude Stein and Alice Babette Toklas met on Sunday 8 September 1907, in Paris. From that day on they were together, until Gertrude's death on Saturday 27 July 1946. Everyone who was anyone went to their salons at the rue de Fleurus. They became a legendary couple, photographed by Stieglitz, Man Ray & Cecil Beaton, painted by Picasso and written about in the works of Hemingway, Paul Bowles and Sylvia Beach. Gertrude and Alice , now with a new foreword, is the highly acclaimed story of their remarkable life together, of the paths that led them to each other, and of Alice's years of widowhood after Gertrude had died. From letters, memoirs and the published writings of Stein and Toklas and with rich illustrations, Whitbread Award-winner Diana Souhami brings their characters, beliefs and achievements vividly to life: 'so emphatically and uncompromisingly themselves, that the world could do nothing less than accept them as they were'.