VIOLET by Jessica Douglas-Home


The Life and Loves of Violet Gordon Woodhouse
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 An extraordinary portrait of a remarkable Englishwoman, a musical era, and a time gone by. The many for whom Violet Gordon Woodhouse is not a household name should read this book. A child prodigy on the piano, Woodhouse did for early music in the first half of this century what Sir Neville Mariner has done for it in the last 20 years. A harpsichordist and clavichordist of prodigious abilities, she made the performance of early composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Scarlatti her personal musical mission. Which is not to suggest that Woodhouse was some nerdy stick-in-the-mud. She was, in fact, a woman so enchanting that she convinced her husband to marry her even though she made it clear they would never have children or, for that matter, sex. She also managed to get this lovestruck soul (whom she did also love, by the way) to agree not long after their marriage to allow three other men equally besotted with her to live with them. It was an arrangement that continued, except for an interruption occasioned by WW I, for the rest of their lives. Woodhouse was equally bewitching to the female sex, serving as the love interest of a number of women, the most notable of whom were the composer Ethel Smyth and the novelist Radclyffe Hall. In between these romantic interludes, Woodhouse made the first recordings of harpsichord music, played with such luminaries as the cellist Pablo Casals, hosted salons whose guests included Picasso, Ezra Pound, and the Sitwells, and snagged the family inheritance after the butler murdered two spinster sisters to whom her father had left his millions. Deftly written by Douglas-Home, Woodhouse's great-niece and a painter, this book has all the makings of a Masterpiece Theatre hit. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 1-86046-269-3
Page count: 342pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997