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

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  216 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
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'. She had numerous affairs with other women: Renée Vivien who nailed shut the windows of her apartment, wrote about the lo
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Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 28th 2004 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Liz
Ok, a book about wealthy lesbians that live the high parisian life in the early part of the 20th century, in my opinion an awesome time to be around. I'm thinking sex, drugs (mainly opium) women, lady boys, boyish girls, art, seduction, decadence, obscene opulence, dadaism & some cubism for good measure, obsession, passion, orgies, dressing up in togas and prancing around a maypole, excessive wine & cheese consumption, delinquent inverted behaviour that spat in the face of the status quo ...more
Jasmine
Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lez-lit
Not much to say about this book. It reads more like a reference book than a novel and feels like the author loved 'name-dropping' all the people that were around at the time, kind of like a gossip rag from the turn of the 20th century. I occasionally enjoyed the interesting foot notes, but I just felt that it was too sparse overall. I wanted to get to know some of the peripheral people that floated in and out of Natalie's life a bit more, but mostly I was not given that opportunity.

I must admit
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Marissa
This book was surprisingly awesome, although I probably wouldn't have been so surprised if I had realized it was written by the same person who wrote Two Lives about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. This book is actually better than Two Lives in the sense that it is juicier and has a lot more bizarre gossip about various members of the lesbian literature and art world, as well as just the general gay aristocracy of Western Europe and America during the late 19th/early 20th century. The partic ...more
Velvetink
Apr 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dfordoom, lynne jackson,
I fell in love with the paintings of Romaine Brooks - although her demise into seclusion after WW2 and some madness made her less attractive than her lover Natalie Barney. Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks were pivotal figures in the bohemian world of Paris at the turn of the century. Their group of friends and lesbian lovers included Liane de Pougy - courtesan, the poet Renee Vivien, Dolly Wilde - niece of Oscar Wilde - who died of drugs overdose, Gertrude Stein, Colette and Edith Sitwell & ...more
Nicola
Triumph! I finally found the History of Art section in my local library! (It’s located in an obscure corner frequented by tramps!) This happy surprise led me to grab not only the books on Abstract Expressionism I was looking for, but also this, whose hilariously bodice-ripping cover was too good for me to pass up.

Wild Girls is not actually a bodice-ripper. Nor is it much of a history of art.

It’s a biography of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks, a pair of rich American lesbians who met in 1920s
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Gerry
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
A well-told tale of the lives and loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks who lived life to the full in Paris, although both keen on keeping their own space.

The story is told before they met each other and then after this pair of 'wild women' realised that they had something very much in common.

One slight down factor is the great number of footnotes (see that Noel Coward quote!) but in fairness, unlike many footnotes, they do add something to the story and are more interesting than most by
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Amanda
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love reading anything about the lesbians in Paris during this time period. This book is well researched and does a great job giving insight into the salon culture at that time, but in my opinion Souhami didn't focus enough on Barney and Brooks. So much of the book was about their relationships with others, and while that was interesting, I was hoping for more in depth biography on the two figures highlighted in the title.
Ladywilde
I could not put this book down! I read it in less than a day and was sad to see it go. Totally absorbing and engrossing from start to finish. A fantastic read! My one complaint was that there was not more of it and I felt that the author skimmed over a lot of detail that deserved more focus in the book. All and all, this book was amazing and one I'll be sure to reread in the future.
Erika Nerdypants
Phenomenal book about Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks. A wonderful biopgraphy not only of their long and enduring love for each other, but also of the Art world in Paris during the early 20th century.
Rosie
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fab book if you're interested in Paris's salon culture in the early 20th century. Souhami is both entertaining and informative, which is rare for literary nonfiction. Also fab if you're a dyke. I have enjoyed all of Souhami's books.
Briana
Oct 28, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The concept of the book is great. I wanted to love it. I wanted to learn about the characters. But i found the writing to be uncaptivating. It could be because i read this after i read Tete de Tete; which is in the same genre; but was brilliantly written.
Megan
Nov 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, but the women grated on me at times.
Not nearly as good as the biography on Tallulah Bankhead.

Edith
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my cup of tea, but an interesting reading. It was one of those books that I wanted to finish although I did not particularly care for it.
Mia
May 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging read!
Elizabeth
Wow- they knew the who was who of Paris...
Sharon Terry
This book, about Natalie Barney and her circle – or rather, her affairs and long-term relationship with the reclusive and mentally unhinged Romaine Brooks – was disappointing for a number of reasons. I’d enjoyed Souhami's biography of Radclyffe Hall for its wit and fast pace and I’d hoped for more of the same. I’d also expected this account to be more decidedly located in time and place - the book is actually subtitled “Paris, Sappho & Art: the lives & loves of Natalie Barney & Romai ...more
Alex Sarll
As anyone who's met my girlfriend can likely infer, I'm a big fan of posh lesbians. And while Paris now exists at the dispiriting junction of museumification and Mr Toad, from the Belle Époque to the Jazz Age it has always seemed to me one of the enchanted places of the Earth. So to offer an account of the former largely set in the latter was always likely to win me over. I happened across a shelf of sapphic biographies by Souhami in a bookshop some weeks back, having never previously heard of h ...more
Dfordoom
This is both an account of the world of fashionable literary and artistic lesbians in Paris in the first half of the 20th century and a biography of two of the more celebrated members of that set. The artist Romaine Brooks and her lover Natalie Barney knew just about everybody who was anybody in that world, from Colette to Radclyffe Hall, from Gertrude Stein to Oscar Wilde’s niece Dolly.

The subject matter is certainly intriguing, although (like so many modern works of non-fiction) the author’s o
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Vronsky
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, france, lgbt, lesbian
Fascinatingly detailed as a pair of character studies - it's hard to believe that both of these women really existed. They could easily be characters in a play or a novel. It's the descriptions of Natalie's letters towards the ends of her and Romaine's lives that really make it seem so beautiful and tragic. It's not often that a non-fiction book (and a thorough, well-researched non-fiction book at that) contains such a touching portrait of unconditional love. It is an excellent contrast to Natal ...more
Lalena
Jan 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: su-library
I think someone who was already well versed in the Paris/Euro art/lesbian scene of the early 2oth century would get a lot more out of this book than I did since there was a shit ton of name dropping. But it was a good read. The central love story that strings together the short histories of the various people in Natalie Barney's circle is heartbreaking. A lot of the people described were bat shit crazy and some of the stories are quite funny while others are just sad or hilarious in the orginal ...more
Alisa
Sep 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
Well.. needless to say this is another example of why I should see a therapist about my impulsive cover buying... Thank the Lord it was only $2. It wasnt a bad book, but it was out of my genre and I felt a little lost. A story of 2 lesbians in Paris was not what I had set out to read but none-the-less, it wasnt all bad. Wild for those times... ok... wild for these times.. hardley, but.. interesting how they lived and decided that no man was going to make them do anything they didnt want to do.. ...more
Paula
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent addition for getting the whole picture of one of my favorite places and periods--Paris in the first half of the twentieth century. I found this book when searching for info on the artist Romaine Brooks. She turned out to the least sympathetic person in this fascinating work on the vibrant lesbian artistic culture of the day.
Lynn Lessard
Took a while to get thru' this bio but worth it. Insightful look at lesbian life during turn of century when Paris was rampant w/ ecentric artist wanna-bes from America. Fascinating glimpse into 2 such women's lives who share tortured yet privileged pasts. Extremely well researched as evidenced by footnotes. Found the chapter opening remarks a bit confusing at times, e.g., who they pertained to.
Mary Shafer
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy biography, art, Paris, the 1920s, writing, art and lesbian interest
Recommended to Mary by: a friend's private reading list
This whole era in American expats and art just fascinates me, and I find myself particularly drawn to anything about Natalie Clifford Barney and her crowd. This book is fantastic in its detail and has lots of illuminating photos. Well-written with a pace that clips right along. This one's staying in my permanent collection and will likely get read again.
Adrienne
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so this is my not very indept review from my memory of reading this book ages ago. I remember being really excited when it came out.

On one hand I liked this book, because Natalie. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of Romaine.

When is someone going to write a book about Natalie and Elisabeth de Gramont? They were the ones who made up a fake marriage contract?

Yooperprof
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, biography, paris
This is one of those "post-modern" biographies where the author is constantly inserting herself into the text with short vignettes from her own life. I find that rather annoying and presumptuous.

Panda
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
totally absorbing. Kept me thoroughly entertained and I enjoyed the entries by Souhami about HER love life, the disappointments, the stresses.
Nose in a book (Kate)
Interesting people, not enough room in this small book to get to know them really. A few more comments on this book: http://www.noseinabook.co.uk/?p=2123
Susan Detlefsen
Nice history of these all but forgotten Sapphic love stories. The author's insertion of her own dramas in between chapters is somewhat annoying. A good read though!
Colette
rated it really liked it
Jul 01, 2016
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Diana Souhami was brought up in London and studied philosophy at Hull University. She worked in the publications department of the BBC before turning to biography. In 1986 she was approached by Pandora Press and received a commission to write a biography of Hannah Gluckstein. Souhami became a full-time writer publishing biographies which mostly explore the most influential and intriguing of 20th c ...more
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