Natalie and Romaine

Paris, Sappho and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks

Quercus · 224 pp · 2004

Nominated for the Judy Grahn Award · Nominated for the Lambda Literary Award

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Natalie and Romaine met in London during World War I and their partnership lasted until Natalie died 52 years later. They were both American expatriates; unconventional, energetic, flamboyant and rich.

Natalie was known as ‘the wild girl of Cincinnatti’ and had numerous affairs with other women: Renée Vivien who nailed shut the windows of her apartment, wrote about the loveliness of death, drank eau de cologne and died of anorexia aged 30; and Dolly Wilde niece of Oscar, who ran up terrible phone bills and died of a drugs overdose. Her Friday afternoon salons in the cobbled garden of her Parisian house were for ‘introductions and culture’ and were frequented by Gertrude Stein, Colette, Radclyffe Hall and Edith Sitwell. Romaine achieved fame in her own lifetime and after as an artist. She painted her lovers including Gabriele d’Annunzio with whom she had a terrible and tortured relationship, and the ballerina Ida Rubinstein. However her relationship with Natalie was constant and in their eventful years together they threw up a liberating spirit of culture, style and candour.

REVIEWS

An epic romance, smartly sex-positive and so good-naturedly shocking.

New York Times Book Review


Pages are crammed with descriptions of exotic characters, their extravagances and eccentricities, the lilies, the pearls, the velvet-lined rooms…

Selina Hastings · Sunday Telegraph


Her skill, not just in garnering detail but in finding the perfect place for it, is unrivalled.

Jonathan Keates · Literary Review


Souhami is an exceptionally witty and original biographer

Lucy Hughes-Hallett · Sunday Times