Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wild Heart: A Life: Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris” as Want to Read:
Wild Heart: A Life: Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Wild Heart: A Life: Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  228 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Born in 1876, Natalie Barney-beautiful, charismatic, brilliant and wealthy-was expected to marry well and lead the conventional life of a privileged society woman. But Natalie had no interest in marriage and made no secret of the fact that she was attracted to women. Brought up by a talented and rebellious mother-the painter Alice Barney-Natalie cultivated an interest in p ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 23rd 2003 by Ecco (first published October 1st 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wild Heart, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wild Heart

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  228 ratings  ·  33 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm not usually enthusiastic about reading biographies, but I thought this one was captivating, and it has motivated me to read more about some of the people in Natalie Barney's life.

This tome does more than illuminate the life of Natalie Barney; Rodriguez also must journey into the historical events which took place during her long life (1876-1972), the fascinating and famous people who surrounded her, and the culture of the upperclass.

As I read, I found that there were so many anecdotes I'd wa
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
The four balled-up-kleenex-end of this book left me feeling like I was grieving the loss of a friend.

Rodriguez's portrait is loving, but unflinching. Germaine Lefranq, quoted by Rodriguez in the latter half of the book, says it rather well, I think: "I admire Miss Barney [...] and I do not want to be one of those cowardly admirers who, for justifying the person they admire, deny their defects [and] camouflage their particularities, reducing them to nothing" (312).

I am beyong grateful that I stu
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book because the cover appealed to my love of the Victorian. And promptly fell head over heels for Natalie, her amazing wit, daring and charisma, even before she managed, at only 23, to seduce the Liane D'Pougy the most famous of courtesan of the time. Natalie and Renee Vivien defined my last two years in college.
Mary Emily O'Hara
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The world's greatest lesbian lothario that no one has ever heard of. The author transports us to Natalie Barney's spoiled Parisian expat world of lesbian artists, scandal, privilege, and literary fame. Juicy!
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing book! If you are interested in the Belle Epoque or literary Paris during the 1920's and 1930's this is THE book to start with. It takes you on a tour of 2 time periods and how the Belle Epoque had no other way to end but in the glittering society that World War 1 left. How no other place but Paris could have held so many literary talents and stars. And how this one woman brought them all together in one literary salon that lasted for 60 years is... amazing. A tour de force of ...more
I found this quite a good biography of a fascinating woman. It's perhaps not quite as unbiased as one could wish, as Rodriguez's deep admiration for Barney is very apparent, but she does make every effort to examine fairly Barney's faults (such as her unfaithfulness and occasional anti-Semitism) as well as her strengths.
cansu m
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
lesbian poetess extraordinaire. wish i had a time machine to go back and hang out in her salon parties
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Compelling Biography about a little known, but highly influential woman in the literary world. The book read like a narrative, dynamic and seamless.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, read-2018
There is so much to this story! Starting with Natalie's mother, this family cross the paths of the most famous people of their eras. I say "eras" plural because one of the most fascinating things about Natalie are the eras that come together and overlap in her life. She started out a scandal, an openly homosexual woman with many lovers before the first World War. Life in America would have been impossible- she went to Paris, where she stayed. By the end of the Second World War she was nearly for ...more
Alison Hastings
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing amazing amazing
I felt transported back in time. The historical details were fascinating. This is a beautifully written book that really captured Natalie Barney and Paris at the turn of the century. The book flows easily and everything is conveyed in a manner that keeps one interested.
Beautiful beautiful attention to details of the time period.
So many characters but brought together in a very cohesive manner without sacrificing depth.
Veronica Kirin
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At first the book starts slow, demonstrating the childhood of Natalie Clifford Barney. However, the book accelerates and becomes more exciting as she comes of age. By the end, I was utterly enamored with Miss Barney.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
You can read my review here on
Christy B
A very interesting account about a very interesting lady.

Natalie Clifford Barney, born in Dayton, Ohio in 1876 in a wealthy family was, from the start, a free spirit. She lived her life defying society's conventions. She lived openly, never hiding or giving excuses for being a lesbian or feminist or for her dreams as a writer. She refused to marry and instead moved to Paris in the early 1900s where she would live for the rest of her life.

I can't recall where I first came across Barney's name, bu
I picked up this book randomly at the library when I was browsing the biography section and the title caught my eye. I hadn't heard of Natalie Clifford Barney before, though I have heard of (and know quite a bit about, in some cases) many of the writers and artists who were big and small parts of her life in Paris from the 1890s when she set up her weekly salon through her death in 1972.

Barney doesn't strike me as a likable person, even remotely, but she's definitely fascinating. She was ahead
Lorie Miller
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An incredible biography, about one of the most fascinating and least known historical figures of the 19th/20th Century.

Natalie Barney Clifford was an incredible Poet, Writer, Hostess , Lover, Patron, Feminist & out Lesbian.

Among many other things that it was considered ;

Extraordinary , impossible or even abhorrent for a women to be, in that particular period in history.

Her life story illustrates times and places
(1870's- 1960's) - (Ohio ,Washington, Paris, Florence)

That are often skipped ov
Feb 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: english, biography
The author obviously admires all aspects of Nathalie Barney. She even tries to excuse the frequent
anti-semitic fragments that come up in her writings. She finds Nathalie very intelligent, which is
somewhat inconsistent with Nathalie's professed interest in numerology. Instead of intelligent, I'd
rather call Miss Barney quick-witted, a capability that was highly admired in the salons of the
time. On the other hand, one has to appreciate how Ms Barney openly came out for her sexual preferences
and act
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
2 and 1/2 stars, really. I had never in my LIFE heard of Natalie Clifford Barney--I "discovered" her thanks to the Academy of American Poet's Poem-A-Day program. She had lived such a startling life that I wanted to read more about her. This biography is very thorough, and is almost as much about the Belle Epoque era as it is about one person who really benefited from it, which was fascinating to me. The writing is accessible and generally strikes the right tone (something I'm terribly fussy abou ...more
Nov 26, 2007 rated it liked it
I don't usually go for biographies, but I can't put this one down. NCB's story is fascinating. She was a feminist and a thinker far ahead of her time, and a strong individual woman during a time when women were lauded for their obedience. It is astonishing and inspiring to read about the social obstacles and prejudices she stared down. I feel cynical, however, because as I read about not just her ideas but also her background, it strikes me that her wealthy upbringing and associated sense of ent ...more
Mary Shafer
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in avant garde literature, famous lesbians, Belle Epoque Paris
Recommended to Mary by:
Having read just about every book available on the fascinating subject of Natalie Clifford Barney, I found this one interesting and well-done. My only complaint is that I felt like Rodriguez kept unnecessarily inserting herself into the narrative. I think she was trying to perhaps make some connection between the modern reader and Paris' Belle Epoque, but I found these references to her own experiences somewhat jarring, not particularly enlightening and in the end, kind of annoying.

Still, she's
Sara Giacalone
Aug 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
What a fascinating read; I can't get enough of this time period currently (late 1800s through 1930s). This book (and Among the Bohemians) taught me there is literally nothing new under the sun. It's hard to imagine the constraints on society in general, and women in particular, during the turn of the century and I can't help but respect Natalie Clifford Barney for her courage in being the person she was meant to be. I now feel I have enough background to read Natalie's lover's (Liane de Pougy's) ...more
Lord Beardsley
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the 1920s and bitchiness
This is a very accesible biography of Natalie Barney. From what I've heard, it's also one of the best. It reads more like literary fiction than a biography and makes an excellent companion piece to Truly Wilde, the biography of Dolly Wilde. Read this if you're interested in literate lesbians, flappers, Paris in the 1920s. A great book to plan to read on your next trip to Paris!
Rachel Hope
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Solid biography of a fascinating life. Natalie Barney's story takes us from the milieu of self-made men in the mid-19th century midwest, through life in the Gilded Age haunts of New York and Bar Harbor, to the demimonde in Belle Epoque Paris, the transatlantic literati of 1920s Paris, and straight into the 1970s. Wow, what a tour.
Cynthia Clough
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Anybody who's interested in Paris Salons, turn-of-the-century lesbian culture, the writing of Proust, Colette, STein,Djuna Barnes...and all the others circulating in Paris at the time would enjoy this bio. Natalie Barney shows up as character in dozens of novels and memoirs of the era because she was such a phenomenon...need I mention the one night she made 18 conquests???
May 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got completely absorbed by the life story of Natlie Barney and really couldn't put the book down. Rodriguez vividly described the adventurous, fearless spirit of Barney. The complexity of her relationships was also completely fascinating to me.
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The writing was crisp, colorful and the only negative thing I can say about it is that it didn't have more of the writings of Miss Barney. Just from this book, I want find more on the subject.
Dieuwertje Heuvelings
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
one of the best biographies I've ever read.
Jun 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Fascinating life of a woman perhaps overlooked for her contributions to the literary life of Paris, esp through her salon. Couldn't put it down.
Dec 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers of History, Paris Salons, 20s Europe
I've read alot about Natalie Clifford Barney and Parisian salons during the 20s. This biography has more depth to it than earlier books on her life.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of THE most fascinating people I have ever read about.
Rachel Swords
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at a little known but highly influential American writer/socialite.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho, and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks
  • Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story Of Dolly Wilde, Oscar's Unusual Niece
  • Women of the Left Bank
  • Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950's
  • Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties
  • Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939
  • The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of 'Joe' Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water
  • The Secret Life of Aphra Behn
  • The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Decadence
  • Ladies Almanack
  • Kiki's Paris: Artists and Lovers 1900-1930
  • Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Birth of the Lesbian Rights Movement
  • Paris Noir: African-Americans in the City of Light
  • A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster
  • The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood
  • Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean
  • Memoirs of Montparnasse
  • Portrait of a Marriage: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson
See similar books…
Suzanne Rodriguez is a journalist and the author of three non-fiction books and hundreds of national magazine and newspaper articles. Suzanne’s writing covers numerous topics, including travel, food, wine, history, art, people, business, and technology. She lives in the town of Sonoma, California. When not at her desk, Suzanne can be found on steep hiking trails, traveling, enjoying great meals in ...more