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Between Me and Life: A Biography of Romaine Brooks

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30 review for Between Me and Life: A Biography of Romaine Brooks

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    La vida de Romaine Brooks es absolutamente apasionante tanto en su faceta de pintora como en las mil y una peripecias que vivió. Infancia tormentosa con varios abandonos por parte de su madre, estancias en un Paris burbujeante de vida, Capri en el apogeo de acogida de intelectuales homosexuales... Además su carácter introvertido, asertivo y ciertamente taciturno hacen que te encariñes con ella rápidamente. Con esta biografía que se escribe sola (y que se encuentra recogida en unas memorias no pub La vida de Romaine Brooks es absolutamente apasionante tanto en su faceta de pintora como en las mil y una peripecias que vivió. Infancia tormentosa con varios abandonos por parte de su madre, estancias en un Paris burbujeante de vida, Capri en el apogeo de acogida de intelectuales homosexuales... Además su carácter introvertido, asertivo y ciertamente taciturno hacen que te encariñes con ella rápidamente. Con esta biografía que se escribe sola (y que se encuentra recogida en unas memorias no publicadas aún y en una ingente cantidad de cartas), la periodista Merlyle Secrest se centra más en el carácter y los momentos de su infancia que afectaron al primero que en describir los círculos o hitos históricos que encuadran su vida. Le hubiera dado unas 5 estrellas por un pequeño GRAN detalle: la falta de rigor en la perspectiva LGTB para narrar la vida de Romaine que era lesbiana/bisexual (dependiendo cómo se interprete su relación con el poeta Gabriele d’Annunzio) así que si te adentras en este libro te recomiendo practicar el mindfulness y no querer agarrar de las solapas a Merlyle para que hubiera hecho un estudio más profundo (que el libro es de los años 70 y ya había estudios de género en USA)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Side Real Press

    I've been reading books by and about the circle of people around Brooks (Natalie Barney, Renee Vivien etc) and Brooks always struck me as the most interesting of them because she seemed the most talented. Becoming filthy rich quite early in her adulthood meant she didnt actually have to sell any of them and so her output is relatively small and stayed relatively unknown (or ignored) but nowadays they have a (deserved) recognition, mainly because of this biographers efforts to get many of them (a I've been reading books by and about the circle of people around Brooks (Natalie Barney, Renee Vivien etc) and Brooks always struck me as the most interesting of them because she seemed the most talented. Becoming filthy rich quite early in her adulthood meant she didnt actually have to sell any of them and so her output is relatively small and stayed relatively unknown (or ignored) but nowadays they have a (deserved) recognition, mainly because of this biographers efforts to get many of them (and her papers) into the Smithsonian. If you are unfamiliar with her paintings and strange semi-automatic looking) drawings its well worth googling, I think they are wonderful. Secrest's biography is nearly 50 years old and seems to show it. There seem to be some major holes in her (long 1874-1970) life story (the last 30 odd years of it crammed into almost as many pages) and, to me, some odd analysis of her works. Secrest is of the opinion that we are all bisexual and that we are culturally conditioned to conform to heterosexuality. As her mother was an absolute grade one headcase it is understandable that Brooks turned out oddly. Her mothers lived entirely in her own world, eating and sleeping when she wished day or night and was morbidly obsessed with spiritualism, often wandering around the house talking to her spirits and holding many seances with her spiritual doctors- 'Cherio' was at her deathbed. She also had an overbearing love for her son, who could do no wrong despite being obviously (to everyone) mentally disturbed. Dangerously so, it's possible he sexually molested Romaine. Her mothers relation with Romaine was the opposite as she obviously didn't like her daughter constantly demeaning her and at one point virtually giving her away to her washerwoman. Unsurprisingly Romaine appears to have shut herself down emotionally and certainly had a desire to a) escape and b) have some peace and quiet. Though she achieved both (oodles of cash helps) she remained conflicted over her relationship with the hypocritical high society in which she was bought up, and continued to move in 'exalted circles' throughout her life never quite escaping them. I did feel some sympathy for her over her appalling childhood despite her being an outspoken snob - which I put down to being a defense mechanism. However this is no excuse for her more serious failings as a fascist sympathiser and racist which Secrest sort of skirts around, and Brook's thoughts on Hitler and WWII in genaral are scarcely mentioned. Perhaps she didnt go too far into it out of deference to Natalie Barney, who felt similarly to Brooks and shared a house with her in Italy during that period, and was still alive as the book was being written. Secrest also (certainly by todays standards!) seems to play down Brook's lesbianism and one would never know from the book that Brooks and Winnaretta Singer were lovers. Even her relationship with Ida Rubenstein is also perhaps a little too discreetly alluded to. The men, especially Gabriele D'Annunzio (who she certainly loved) and her (gay) husband John Brooks get perhaps too many words devoted to them but she does pick apart her fifty year relationship with Natalie Barney well, and at length. Secrest also does well with anecdotes regarding the portraits. I always thought that that Una Troubridge looked silly in Brook's image and it appears Brooks intended it that way. I also didnt know that Brooks kept her striking image of Luisa Casati under her bed for years as she (Brooks) didnt like it, Brooks hated to part with her canvases anyway. Secrest sometimes chooses to look at her artworks in relation to Brooks relationship with her mother. I don't share this view with regard to her paintings. Certainly many of her subjects appear caught in an isolated mood but others are appear defiant in their stare at the viewer. We must certainly beg to differ over the Casati portrait. It seems as if I have been very negative over this book but there are some good points. Firstly it is not weighed down with footnotes and references every few words (usually because the writer has looked up every reference on the net and feels obligated to share the results however banal) and secondly Secrest met many of her sources only a short time after Brook's death and thus memories were fresh. There are also some good reproductions of the work (especially her drawings). I havent read the more recent biography by Cassandra Langer (its on my list!) so I cannot compare, but Secrest's book (with a bit of internet) may suffice for those who need more than the basic facts. It was certainly worth the few pounds I paid for it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    JodiP

    I first encourntered Brookes' work at the Renwick gallery in Washington, D.C. in August, 2012. Her work is somber, and the fact that she was a lesbian intriged me. So, I tucked the idea of a biography away, and here I was a year later. This book was written in the mid-1970s just a few years after Brooks died, and therefore, it is an historic artifact in and of itself. There was a lot of psychoanalysis about her relationship with her mother, as well as trying to explain away her lesbianism. This I first encourntered Brookes' work at the Renwick gallery in Washington, D.C. in August, 2012. Her work is somber, and the fact that she was a lesbian intriged me. So, I tucked the idea of a biography away, and here I was a year later. This book was written in the mid-1970s just a few years after Brooks died, and therefore, it is an historic artifact in and of itself. There was a lot of psychoanalysis about her relationship with her mother, as well as trying to explain away her lesbianism. This added an extra layer of fascination for me. My biggest complaint was that the autor continuously referred to natalie Barnes as Brookes' friend, when they were clearly lovers. She doesn't shy away from describing other women this way, so I didn't understand this. I could be the times, too. I am about to read Amazons in the Drawing Room, which I believe is a more recent offering. I really did love entering the world of Parisian society from the 1910s onwards; there were many people I hadn't heard of, and this book has piqued my interest to elarn more about the trends in writing, art, and behavior during that period.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    This book gets 4 stars because I knew nothing about the biographer's subject and yet it was a wonderfully interesting read. This book gets 4 stars because I knew nothing about the biographer's subject and yet it was a wonderfully interesting read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ruth B

    strong start...fades a bit but still very good.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rose

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peta Milan

  10. 4 out of 5

    Missy

  11. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vera

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  14. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Ashby

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alice

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kasakoff

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karyn

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hipstermothergoose

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  24. 4 out of 5

    Orla

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  27. 5 out of 5

    Oleksandra Orlova

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maryann Zulueta

  29. 4 out of 5

    Johan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Antonia Malvino

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