YOUR JOHN by Joanne Glasgow


The Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall
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 Passionate and revealing love letters from the iconic lesbian novelist. Radclyffe Hall, one of the most popular lesbian writers--and personalities--in history, is getting a fresh look (see Terry Castle's Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall, p. 1437). Now Glasgow has collected Hall's love letters to White Russian ÇmigrÇe Evguenia Souline, which were written over a period of eight years, beginning in 1934, when the two women met. At that time, Hall (``John'' to her friends) was 54 years old and living with Una Troubridge, her devoted life partner of 18 years. Troubridge was devastated by Hall's wandering affections but stayed with her, even helping with the logistics of the affair. Troubridge contacted officials about visas and naturalization papers for ``the other woman'' (since Souline was a refugee living in Paris, arranging for her to travel was always complicated). And when Hall became too ill to write to Souline herself, Troubridge took dictation. The letters are thoroughly engrossing; sexually frank, they provide a window into the obsessive eroticism, and simple sadness, of doomed love affairs. They also reveal much about Radclyffe Hall's politics, which are disturbingly fascist and anti-Semitic at points. More interestingly, the letters suggest the kind of lover she was- -caring, yet often manipulative and unreasonable. Her writing, and her life with Una, are non-negotiable commitments, yet when Souline's concerns--her work as a nurse, her desire for a more exclusive relationship--threaten the affair, Hall angrily dismisses them. She gives Souline considerable financial support but often uses money as a means of control. Glasgow (English and Women's Studies/Bergen Community College) has chosen these letters well and provides helpful context. Sometimes, though, she leaves crucial questions unasked, such as why only one letter from Souline to John survives. These letters will be much enjoyed by the enduring Hall fan club, and by literary enthusiasts and voyeurs.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8147-3092-2
Page count: 289pp
Publisher: New York Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996