ECHO by Violet Trefusis


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In her second fictional attempt to represent her romance with Vita Sackville-West (Broderie Anglaise, 1985), Trefusis composed more a parable, an echo, than a novel--a simplified, warped, and haunting reflection of the lives she also wrote about in her love letters On a collection, reviewed below,by Mitchell Leaska and John Phillips). Sauge (partly Violet), a bored French socialite, visits the Scottish castle where her aunt, Lady Balquidder, lives with her orphaned twin cousins, Malcolm and Jean (read the androgynous Vita). Though often referred to as children, Malcolm and Jean are 20--overgrown, loutish, unsociable, sweaty, kilted, sullen, symbiotically attached, and deeply resentful of Sauge, whose presence they fear will interrupt their hunting and romping in the heather. To her, however, they are ""wonderfully savage,"" and she is inspired to ""tame"" their ""dark primitive minds."" In the end, though, they sound like everyone she was bored with in Paris, especially her husband, Alain, with whom she exchanges letters throughout the book--a device that allows Trefusis to avoid representing action (at which she is particularly inept) but enables her to offer arch and aphoristic commentary on Scottish, British, and French character. The short (112-page) tale concludes speedily and without preparation: Malcolm falls in love with Sauge; Jean commits suicide; and Sauge returns to her husband, who has been threatening to go to Indo-China with another woman. Of more psychological than aesthetic interest, Trefusis's story reveals a resourceful and clever mind restructuring reality to explain and therefore survive her most humiliating losses.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking