Hot Best Seller

Olivia

Availability: Ready to download

“Considered one of the most subtle and beautifully written lesbian novels of the century, this 1949 classic returns to print in a Cleis Press edition. Dorothy Strachey’s classic Olivia captures the awakening passions of an English adolescent sent away for a year to a small finishing school outside Paris. The innocent but watchful Olivia develops an infatuation for her head “Considered one of the most subtle and beautifully written lesbian novels of the century, this 1949 classic returns to print in a Cleis Press edition. Dorothy Strachey’s classic Olivia captures the awakening passions of an English adolescent sent away for a year to a small finishing school outside Paris. The innocent but watchful Olivia develops an infatuation for her headmistress, Mlle. Julie, and through this screen of love observes the tense romance between Mlle. Julie and the other head of the school, Mlle. Cara, in its final months. “Although not strictly autobiographical, Olivia draws on the author’s experiences at finishing schools run by the charismatic Mlle. Marie Souvestre, whose influence lived on through former students like Natalie Barney and Eleanor Roosevelt. Olivia was dedicated to the memory of Strachey’s friend Virginia Woolf and published to acclaim in 1949. Colette wrote the screenplay for the 1951 film adaptation of the novel. In 1999, Olivia was included on the Publishing Triangle’s widely publicized list of the 100 Best Gay and Lesbian Novels of the 20th Century. “Dorothy Strachey (1865-1960) was the sister of the novelist Lytton Strachey and a prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group…….Olivia, originally published under a pseudonym, is her only novel.” -- Amazon.com


Compare

“Considered one of the most subtle and beautifully written lesbian novels of the century, this 1949 classic returns to print in a Cleis Press edition. Dorothy Strachey’s classic Olivia captures the awakening passions of an English adolescent sent away for a year to a small finishing school outside Paris. The innocent but watchful Olivia develops an infatuation for her head “Considered one of the most subtle and beautifully written lesbian novels of the century, this 1949 classic returns to print in a Cleis Press edition. Dorothy Strachey’s classic Olivia captures the awakening passions of an English adolescent sent away for a year to a small finishing school outside Paris. The innocent but watchful Olivia develops an infatuation for her headmistress, Mlle. Julie, and through this screen of love observes the tense romance between Mlle. Julie and the other head of the school, Mlle. Cara, in its final months. “Although not strictly autobiographical, Olivia draws on the author’s experiences at finishing schools run by the charismatic Mlle. Marie Souvestre, whose influence lived on through former students like Natalie Barney and Eleanor Roosevelt. Olivia was dedicated to the memory of Strachey’s friend Virginia Woolf and published to acclaim in 1949. Colette wrote the screenplay for the 1951 film adaptation of the novel. In 1999, Olivia was included on the Publishing Triangle’s widely publicized list of the 100 Best Gay and Lesbian Novels of the 20th Century. “Dorothy Strachey (1865-1960) was the sister of the novelist Lytton Strachey and a prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group…….Olivia, originally published under a pseudonym, is her only novel.” -- Amazon.com

30 review for Olivia

  1. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘I must feed on beauty and rapture in order to grow strong.’ The volatile landscapes of sexual awakenings are often the grounds for great novels with emotions flowing like rivers for hearts to break upon the rocks. Olivia, Dorothy Strachey’s only novel, is not only an achievement of lesbian fiction in the late 1940’s but of literary fiction in general. Told from the perspective of old age reflecting back on when ‘I was innocent,' at the age of 16, ‘with the innocence of ignorance,’ his exquisitel ‘I must feed on beauty and rapture in order to grow strong.’ The volatile landscapes of sexual awakenings are often the grounds for great novels with emotions flowing like rivers for hearts to break upon the rocks. Olivia, Dorothy Strachey’s only novel, is not only an achievement of lesbian fiction in the late 1940’s but of literary fiction in general. Told from the perspective of old age reflecting back on when ‘I was innocent,' at the age of 16, ‘with the innocence of ignorance,’ his exquisitely written little gem manages to completely absorb the reader through the tumultuous rapture of first love as she is plunged into the social politics and scandals of her French boarding school. Olivia awakens in desire for Mlle Julie, who co-founded the school with Mlle Cara and guides her in the ways of arts and culture but possible former romances create an atmosphere of jealousy and shame for Olivia. The novel was a source of inspiration for Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman, who provides the introduction for the recent Penguin reprinting and calls the novel ‘a tapestry of tortured, introspective moments’. Strachey achieves excellence in this perfect portrait of young sapphic desires beset by a heteronormative world and power struggles within the school that threaten to tear everything apart. ‘Life, life, life, this is life, full to overflowing with every ecstasy and every agony. It is mine, mine to hug, to exhaust, to drain.’ The prose in this short novel is so arresting it’s unbelievable. Coming from an aging narrator trying to recreate the emotive ecstasy of a 16 year old grants some leeway into grandiosity, which Strachely delivers line after line in nearly exhausting bliss. Olivia is navigating ‘ a world in which everything was fierce and piercing, everything charged with strange emotions, clothed with extraordinary mysteries, and in which I myself seemed to exist only as an inner core of palpitating fire,’ which resonates with any reader who has ever felt overwhelmed by adoration for another. Upon unlocking her endearment towards Mlle. Julie as the older woman reads aloud to her class with her close at her side, Olivia unleashes a torrent of emotional extragence that she can barely wade within. The prose reaches almost parodic pitch but remains powerfully in an empathetic realm of relatable infatuation. ‘I was no longer alone. She was with me—beside me. She had said "us". She had lifted me to her star.’ What really works is the way Olivia’s sexual awakening occurs in concurrence with her artistic awakening in the halls of academia, museums and theaters. Smitten with Mlle. Julie, she eagerly absorbs her aesthetic preferences and is granted a beautiful apprenticeship into the teacher’s matured tastes on art. ‘For every feeling, she writes, ‘every vicissitude of my passion, there would spring into my mind a quotation from the poets.’ The poetic profligacy of the prose makes sense as the emotional compassing of a young girl on her deep-dive into the arts, always ready with a supporting argument from the poets and eager to surpass the classicists in their attempts at rapturous outpourings. ’Pretty girls I had seen, lovely girls, no doubt, but I had never paid much conscious attention to their looks, never been particularly interested in them. But this was something different. No, it was not different. It was merely being awakened to something for the first time—physical beauty. I was never blind to it again. In her attraction to Mlle. Julie, with whom ‘everything in her proximity was intoxicating,’ she is feeling the world open up to her in ways she never thought possible. ‘I pondered the episodes I have just related. I lived them over again, sometimes with ecstasy, sometimes with anguish.’ Strachey begins the novel with Olivia reflecting on her youth with the caveat that ‘its truth has been filtered, transposed, and, maybe, superficially altered, as is inevitably the case with all autobiographies.’ While this may simply seem the classic framing technique in fiction stories to assert it as fact, Olivia has an additional layer as the book is very much autofiction of Strachey’s life. First written in 1933 when the author was 68 (it would not be published until 1949, anonymously, by her brother Lytton Strachey and the Bloomsbury Group), this reflection on youth is very much true to Strachey’s own reflections on her own youth with fictional flourishes. The name, Olivia, for instance, is a tribute to sister Olivia Stachey who had died in infancy. As a teen, Strachey attended Les Ruches, a school founded by Marie Souvestre and Carol Dussaunt, who are represented here as Mlle. Julie and Mlle. Cara respectively. The real life Marie and Carol had been lovers, much like is strongly implied of Julie and Cara in Olivia. After separating from Dussaunt, Marie Souvestre traveled to England with an Italian woman who had worked with her previously (represented by Signora in the novel) to open a school in which Strachey would later teach. One of her pupils was none other than a young Eleanor Roosevelt who is, along with Beatrice Chamberlain, a part of the composite character Laura, of whom there is much academic interest in decoding. This novel is a loving tribute to strong lesbians of the time, even if they must only exist in echos in order to be published. 'Was this stab in my heart, this rapture, really mine or had I merely read about it?' While the language is evocative and often overflowing with emotion, much of the novel exists primarily in innuendo, hiding everything behind the veil of implied but never shown. One might assume this a sign of the times though it seems more a reflection on the ways lesbianism was often forced to remain hidden, unspoken and unseen in society. Queerness is often outcasted and/or erased, such as Harald Emeis’ 1983 analysis, Olivia: Roman à clefs, that claimed the novel was merely a romanticized version of her relationship with Gide, made to be a queer story as a reference to his sexuality. The intersections of dismissal of women and erasure of lesbianism is something Strachey and countless others to this day experience in a heteronormative world. And this is exponentially worse for trans folks. Even at a school where it seems fairly clear the two founders were former lovers any talk of it passes in shadows of whispers. Mlle. Julie has her “favorites” and it would seem that there is something more to that, such as when she often brings Olivia sweets in the middle of the night. The tension beings to peak when Olivia desires more from Mlle. Julie, who seems to wish to give but is haunted by the past and knows she should not (the age difference and power imbalance is a bit troubling as well and seems to weigh heavily on Julie). Often characteristic of mid 20th century LGBTQ+ novels is the feelings of condemnation for sexuality and therefor a feeling of alienation and self-doubt. Jealous of Olivia’s closeness with her former friend, Cara yells at Olivia to feel shame for her actions and who she is. Self-doubt begins to creep in as Olivia realizes her identity is sidelining her from the rest of the world, yet her passion for Mlle. Julie seems worth it. Yet shame is there and she feels she must ‘ bury them, like a dog his bone’ when it comes to her emotions. Where heteronormative coming-of-age fantasies have character’s envisioning themselves as the hero, Olivia projects Mlle Julie in her mind to heroic proportions with her own heroics being sacrificing oneself for Julie: ’ I was sometimes dreaming—the foolish dreams of adolescence: of how I should save her life at the cost of my own by some heroic deed, of how she would kiss me on my death-bed, of how I should kneel at hers and what her dying word would be, of how I should become famous by writing poems which no one would know were inspired by her, of how one day she would guess it, and so on and so on.’ This seems the perfect encapsulation of fatalist adolescent desire, so beautiful in its theatrics. Though there is something tragic in the belief she must sideline herself even in her visions of strength and glory, a lesson often broadcast in media where queer characters typically only enjoyed a sidekick role. ‘And so that was what love led to. To wound and be wounded.’ Olivia fears this is all that can come from her desires, but they are so strong she will always cling to hope, foolishly and beautifully. ‘And still, do what I would, hope came to interfere with my thoughts, my resolves. How hard it is to kill hope!’ Olivia is a gorgeous little book that will have you gasping for breath in just 100 pages. The events and rumors build to a fever pitch to a dramatic twist near the end, powerful in its execution and implications. Much like another book I enjoyed, The Tree and the Vine, these early lesbian novels walked so modern ones can run. This brief but enchanting book is rightfully a classic of lesbian fiction and fiction as a whole and it is a shame Dorothy Strachey only left this solitary book behind. 4.5/5 ‘In so short a time to be cast from the glories of Paradise into this direful region! It was the first time I learnt how near, how contiguous, are the gates of Heaven and Hell.’

  2. 5 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    7/7/20 A lesbian classic this time! My copy comes with an introduction written by André Aciman whose book Call Me by Your Name was inspired by this one. Very thrilled to give it a go today :) You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website | The Storygraph 7/7/20 A lesbian classic this time! My copy comes with an introduction written by André Aciman whose book Call Me by Your Name was inspired by this one. Very thrilled to give it a go today :) You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website | The Storygraph

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    This was almost the first book I've read in over a year that I did not review. The only reason I decided to was because I was discussing it with a friend and while explaining to her my reasons for not wanting to review it, she said it was actually helpful enough to make her want to read it. Well, hopefully others will find it helpful as well. Whether you like it or not, I hope I give you a decent expectation of what to expect. This is a wonderfully well written book. Each page catches what it was This was almost the first book I've read in over a year that I did not review. The only reason I decided to was because I was discussing it with a friend and while explaining to her my reasons for not wanting to review it, she said it was actually helpful enough to make her want to read it. Well, hopefully others will find it helpful as well. Whether you like it or not, I hope I give you a decent expectation of what to expect. This is a wonderfully well written book. Each page catches what it was like to be a teenager with a first love (or perhaps obsession is the right word? Debatable). It is a book with little in terms of plot, but filled entirely with emotion. I praise this because it was well done and felt real. It was not for me. Sure, I found it a success and feel the need to praise it, but I found reading it to not be a fun experience. It felt like I was sitting at a table, in an extended conversation with a teenager, who was going into a detailed explanation of all the drama in her life, the intricacies of school life and the subterfuge amongst its staff. Fortunately it's told extremely well with delightful word choices. That said, while this all may be very fascinating to insiders, it comes off over dramatic for those outside the situation. But weren't we all over dramatic at the time? Yes, this is a book that those with sweet nostalgia for their teenage years, those who long to relive those bittersweet memories of first love will likely delight in. Being the curmudgeon that I am, I find myself glad that I read it, but also slightly glad that it was short and now over. Now, that all sounded extremely negative and that is the main reason I initially wasn't going to review it... because despite my reactions above I never felt like giving up on it. As I've noted, the prose is beautiful and it does capture a certain time and mix of emotions so perfectly that it is hard not to be caught up in it. I was not enthralled, but I was invested in seeing how this all played out. How to rate this book? That's another challenge. I feel like I have to go with 3/5 stars, but with the notation that if you're not into prose, you maybe should subtract one star if you don't find the teenage experience (particularly their first time with an attraction) to be the most fascinating of subjects. Add one if you do.

  4. 4 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | “And so that was what love led to. To wound and be wounded. ” Set in a French finishing school in the 1900s Dorothy Strachey's Olivia tells the story of a schoolgirl's infatuation with her headmistress. Narrated by its titular character, Olivia perfectly evokes adolescent love. “Pretty girls I had seen, lovely girls, no doubt, but I had never paid much conscious attention to their looks, never been particularly interested in them. But this was something different. No | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | “And so that was what love led to. To wound and be wounded. ” Set in a French finishing school in the 1900s Dorothy Strachey's Olivia tells the story of a schoolgirl's infatuation with her headmistress. Narrated by its titular character, Olivia perfectly evokes adolescent love. “Pretty girls I had seen, lovely girls, no doubt, but I had never paid much conscious attention to their looks, never been particularly interested in them. But this was something different. No, it was not different. It was merely being awakened to something for the first time—physical beauty. I was never blind to it again.” When Olivia becomes enamoured with Mlle. Julie, and experiences an awakening of sorts. Not only do her feelings towards Mlle. Julie alter her sense of self but they also seem to heighten all of her senses. Her narration is full of ecstatic exclamations and passionate declarations (the amount of exclamations points is something else). She often looses herself is sensuous raptures in which she elevates Mlle. Julie to a godly status. Olivia, however, is not the only to pine after her, and Mlle. Julie herself seems to be involved with the other headmistress, Mlle. Cara. Strachey's perfectly captures the anguish of unreciprocated love. Mlle. Julie is Olivia's objet petit a, in other words her unattainable object of desire. Although Olivia longs for Mlle. Julie, it seemed to me that the impossibility of this love magnified the intensity of her feelings. She seems almost satisfied by her own pining, yearning, and general angst. Strachey vividly renders Olivia's finishing school, from the petty jealousies between pupils to the rivalry between Frau Riesener and Signorina. I particularly liked reading about the school's two factions: the 'Julie-ites' (who study Italian with Signorina) and the 'Cara-ites' (who study German with Frau Riesener). The novel doesn't have a plot as such. The narrative seems intent on using a certain type of language in order to translate to the page Olivia's feelings towards Mlle. Julie. Through her grandiose prose Strachey articulates the highs and lows of Olivia's infatuation. Her writing has a flamboyantly poetic quality, one that complements Olivia's emotions—from her desire to her misery—and her reverence towards Mlle. Julie. Being an individual who is not only prone to crushes, but one that tends to romanticise said crushes, well, I rather identified with Olivia. It's a pity that Olivia is Strachey's only novel. Some of my favourite quotes: “Was this stab in my heart, this rapture, really mine or had I merely read about it? For every feeling, every vicissitude of my passion, there would spring into my mind a quotation from the poets.” “These people seemed to be beset on every side by “temptations”; they lived in continual terror of falling into “sin”. Sin? What was sin? Evidently there loomed in the dark background a mysterious horror from which pure-minded girls must turn away their thoughts, but there were dangers enough near at hand which made it necessary to walk with extreme wariness—pitfalls, which one could hardly avoid without the help of God.” “Did I understand the play at that first reading? Oh, certainly not. Haven’t I put the gathered experience of years into my recollection of it? No doubt. What is certain is that it gave me my first conception of tragedy, of the terror and complication and pity of human lives. Strange that for an English child that revelation should have come through Racine instead of through Shakespeare. But it did.” “I went to bed that night in a kind of daze, slept as if I had been drugged and in the morning awoke to a new world—a world of excitement—a world in which everything was fierce and piercing, everything charged with strange emotions, clothed with extraordinary mysteries, and in which I myself seemed to exist only as an inner core of palpitating fire.” “But there was no need of wine to intoxicate me. Everything in her proximity was intoxicating.” “The dullest of her girls was stirred into some sort of life in her presence; to the intelligent, she communicated a Promethean fire which warmed and coloured their whole lives. To sit at table at her right hand was an education in itself.” “No, I have never seen anyone freer from every sort of selfishness, never seen anyone devote herself to others with such manifest gladness. And yet, with all her altruism, one could never think of her as self-sacrificing. She never did sacrifice herself. She had no self to sacrifice. When she gave her time, her thoughts, her energies to bringing up her stepbrothers and stepsisters, it was really a joy to her.” “I think there was nothing else she wanted. If I too would have liked to serve, I was continually conscious that I was incapable and unworthy, continually devoured by vain humilities. And then there was also in me a curious repugnance, a terror of getting too near.” “Let me think of those words later, I said to myself, there’s too much in them—too much joy and terror. I must brush them aside for the moment. I must keep them, bury them, like a dog his bone, till I can return to them alone.” “It was at this time that a change came over me. That delicious sensation of gladness, of lightness, of springing vitality, that consciousness of youth and strength and ardour, that feeling that some divine power had suddenly granted me an undreamt-of felicity and made me free of boundless kingdoms and untold wealth, faded as mysteriously as it had come and was succeeded by a very different state. Now I was all moroseness and gloom—heavy-hearted, leaden-footed.” “But I wasn’t thinking. I was sometimes dreaming—the foolish dreams of adolescence: of how I should save her life at the cost of my own by some heroic deed, of how she would kiss me on my death-bed, of how I should kneel at hers and what her dying word would be, of how I should become famous by writing poems which no one would know were inspired by her, of how one day she would guess it, and so on and so on.” “On the very first morning of what was to be my new life, how could I expect to banish entirely those haunting visions—of a shoulder—of a profile?” “I had been so utterly absorbed by the newness and violence of all my emotions, that it had never occurred to me the present could be anything but eternal.” “I must feed on beauty and rapture in order to grow strong.” “I pondered the episodes I have just related. I lived them over again, sometimes with ecstasy, sometimes with anguish.” Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    I'm not sure how I had never heard of this lesbian classic prior to this year, but I'm glad Olivia finally fell within my radar. It's not great literature and it's not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. It's the story of first love and the heady and all-encompassing emotions that go with it. The protagonist Olivia, at some point in her adulthood, recalls her year at a French boarding school and her first romantic feelings... for one of her teachers. This has been done many times but somehow it I'm not sure how I had never heard of this lesbian classic prior to this year, but I'm glad Olivia finally fell within my radar. It's not great literature and it's not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. It's the story of first love and the heady and all-encompassing emotions that go with it. The protagonist Olivia, at some point in her adulthood, recalls her year at a French boarding school and her first romantic feelings... for one of her teachers. This has been done many times but somehow it still felt fresh. There is not much plot and yet I was drawn in to Olivia's inner world, the excitement and turmoil and longing she felt.   Anyone who has experienced first love will probably relate to the hope and despair that alternately filled young Olivia. It's a quick read but delivers a high emotional impact. (October 2020 classic-of-the-month)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle Dubois

    I read Olivia, by Olivia in its very first 1949 edition. I made researches to know who Olivia could be and I found: Dorothy Bussy (1865-1960), English, published three works, only one of them was a novel: Olivia in 1949. She has it published under the pseudonym Olivia. In my 1949 edition, the name Dorothy Bussy is not even mentioned. This novel caused a scandal when it was published. Why? Because it is a disguised autobiography and its subject is the author's love for her female teacher. In this a I read Olivia, by Olivia in its very first 1949 edition. I made researches to know who Olivia could be and I found: Dorothy Bussy (1865-1960), English, published three works, only one of them was a novel: Olivia in 1949. She has it published under the pseudonym Olivia. In my 1949 edition, the name Dorothy Bussy is not even mentioned. This novel caused a scandal when it was published. Why? Because it is a disguised autobiography and its subject is the author's love for her female teacher. In this autobiographical novel, Olivia, a sixteen-year-old English girl, is sent to a renowned French boarding school to study. Two lovers women run it: Miss Julie, - in real life Marie Souvestre (1835-1905), French - and Miss Cara. As soon as she arrived in this small boarding school which accommodated no more than thirty-five teenager girls, Olivia fell in love with Miss Julie, who did not seem indifferent to the young girl. This love might be chaste, except for a few hand rubs and rare hugs. But no matter what the blur, love is there, real, passionate. Olivia throws herself into love whole-heartedly, without having the key of what this love is. It's her first love, it's violent, whole, handsome. Olivia will discover that it is love, she will also discover jealousy, selfishness, hatred, anything that comes behind love or upsets it. If she loved afterwards, this first love will have left its mark on her for ever. "She was reading for me. For me, for me alone. I knew it. Yes, only I could understand. I, and no one else! And, once again, through my whole being, I tasted this feeling of total intimacy, of close communication, that words, that even caresses are powerless to awaken. I was with her forever; I was close to her, at her side, in this infinitely beautiful, infinitely distant area, whose divine radiance spread over our dark and icy world, the warmth of pity, tenderness, renunciation." A very beautiful love story, full of nuance, where classical literature and poetry, taught at the school and read to her students by Miss Julie, can arouse the impulses of the heart, as well as soothe hearts in love or unhappy ones. There is a passage in the book that touched me personally. A person who is dear to me, in my life, has taken a wrong path for years, wrong for her and her family. I realized that months ago. But she doesn't want my help and refuses to face the reality of her situation. She runs to disaster, it breaks my heart, and my powerlessness gnaws at me. I try to get used to the idea that you can't help a person in spite of her or him, despite all the desire you have to be helpfull. Everyone is responsible for their choices and their lives. That's why, when I read the following passage, it helped me to accept: "Poor Miss Cara had been a weak, selfish and vain creature. That's how I judged her. She had allowed herself to be degraded by suffering; she had not known how to fight against jealousy and bad pride. Would she have been able to fight? I didn't know. But we could fight and I could fight! Between good and evil, to choose good was all what we had to do, was it?" Great female authors do us good! PS: I read this book in its French 1949 version, so the quotes are my translation, forgive my English, please!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    This is a supposed classic of lesbian fiction. I had to check it out. Sometimes novels (or movies for that matter) are named classics due to their sheer quality, originality and epic grandness, sometimes it is due to their contents being revolutionary for its day or for pioneering a new territory or genre. With Olivia it might have been the latter. It is a well written story of a student's ardent and incredibly chaste crush on her schoolmistress. As characteristic of its time, the Victorian sens This is a supposed classic of lesbian fiction. I had to check it out. Sometimes novels (or movies for that matter) are named classics due to their sheer quality, originality and epic grandness, sometimes it is due to their contents being revolutionary for its day or for pioneering a new territory or genre. With Olivia it might have been the latter. It is a well written story of a student's ardent and incredibly chaste crush on her schoolmistress. As characteristic of its time, the Victorian sensibilities of the era make this primarily the passion of the mind and not a happy one at that. The object of affections comes across as emotionally manipulative and cruel, the eponymous character is much too naïve and reserved and the entire novel is somewhat overwrought with sentimental ornamentations. It is entirely possible that it simply packs a lesser punch that other gay and lesbian classics of its time because, although inspired by certain real facts, this is a work written by a heterosexual woman who has consistently denied that Olivia was based on her. No personal struggle has inspired this, it is merely a sort of tragic fantasy, a fine read with some lovely language usage, but far from a great one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    Heard about this from a great GQ piece called "21 Books You Don't Have to Read," which dismisses canonical standards and offers replacements instead. Here's from the entry for this book: I have never been able to fathom why The Catcher in the Rye is such a canonical novel. I read it because everyone else in school was reading it but thought it was totally silly. Now, looking back, I find that it is without any literary merit whatsoever. Why waste adolescents' time? Alternatively, I'd suggest Oli Heard about this from a great GQ piece called "21 Books You Don't Have to Read," which dismisses canonical standards and offers replacements instead. Here's from the entry for this book: I have never been able to fathom why The Catcher in the Rye is such a canonical novel. I read it because everyone else in school was reading it but thought it was totally silly. Now, looking back, I find that it is without any literary merit whatsoever. Why waste adolescents' time? Alternatively, I'd suggest Olivia, the story of a British teenage girl who is sent to a boarding school in France. It is short and written in a kind of levelheaded and deceptively straightforward style. Olivia eventually falls in love with her teacher Mademoiselle Julie T, who in turn, and without reciprocating that love out loud, is equally in love with Olivia. Julie never takes a wrong step, but there are signs for those who know how to read them. I've read Olivia many, many times, and bought it for many of my friends.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    I'll do a proper review of this novel after I see the 1951 movie Olivia, but FYI: it's wonderful. I'll do a proper review of this novel after I see the 1951 movie Olivia, but FYI: it's wonderful.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liralen

    I was desperately curious about this because boarding school and lesbians and older book makes for a pretty interesting combination. And interesting it is, but so terribly odd in some ways too. I don't think this sort of book would make it past a contemporary slush pile, to be honest. The setup drags on for quite some time, despite the book's short length, and there are numerous red herrings—I'd initially expected, for example, that Olivia's love interest would be Laura, but instead...instead we I was desperately curious about this because boarding school and lesbians and older book makes for a pretty interesting combination. And interesting it is, but so terribly odd in some ways too. I don't think this sort of book would make it past a contemporary slush pile, to be honest. The setup drags on for quite some time, despite the book's short length, and there are numerous red herrings—I'd initially expected, for example, that Olivia's love interest would be Laura, but instead...instead we have something of a Boston marriage between teachers, and teachers embroiled in jealousy and schemes and...all sorts of things. Now, jealousy and schemes and so on—those would still go over like gangbusters. But no, what makes this feel so specific to its time is the peculiar chaste crush Olivia develops on one of her teachers at finishing school. Olivia does not really know what the crush means; I don't think she really has any idea what she wants out of it other than to be close to the teacher. Another, more sophisticated girl might. It is not entirely clear, either, what Miss Julie wants, but it's so utterly clear—to everyone, perhaps, but Olivia—that Olivia is not going to get what she's looking for. In a contemporary book, I'd probably be looking for quite a bit more—for more character development, especially of students; for more about Olivia post-schooling; for more action, even quiet action (not necessarily more relationship action between Olivia and Miss Julie, mind, because...consent...and not necessarily more relationship action in general). Still...the slow pacing and older feeling to the book seem absolutely right for what it is, and gosh, I have to start reading more 'literary' books, because the vocabulary here was a delight.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    Olivia was originally published in 1949. Reprinted by Penguin Books 2020. A 16 year old girl brought up in a Victorian household is sent to a finishing school in Paris. Her turbulent, emotional journey begins when she meets the headmistress Mademoiselle Julie. Unaccustomed to experiencing strong feelings Olivia is overwhelmed and has trouble controlling her newly lit desires. The book is beautifully written. The author perfectly captures the reckless rollercoaster that one feels with their first Olivia was originally published in 1949. Reprinted by Penguin Books 2020. A 16 year old girl brought up in a Victorian household is sent to a finishing school in Paris. Her turbulent, emotional journey begins when she meets the headmistress Mademoiselle Julie. Unaccustomed to experiencing strong feelings Olivia is overwhelmed and has trouble controlling her newly lit desires. The book is beautifully written. The author perfectly captures the reckless rollercoaster that one feels with their first love. The book is driven by raw emotions, not plot.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)

    I found this drab account of a power struggle at a Parisian finishing school mind-numbingly boring and couldn’t finish. Bailed at the 50% mark.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Stroh

    In the pantheon of lesbian classics reigns Olivia, Strachey's gripping account of her own coming of age, which is actually a roman à clef about two progressive Belle Époque girls' schools founded by Marie Souvestre. Strachey attended both: Allenswood in England and, in France near the forest of Fontainebleau, Les Ruches. Olivia is set at Les Ruches. It was, of course, a "beehive" of erotic activity. Top Student Eleanor Roosevelt plays a supporting role in a cast that includes Strachey's headmist In the pantheon of lesbian classics reigns Olivia, Strachey's gripping account of her own coming of age, which is actually a roman à clef about two progressive Belle Époque girls' schools founded by Marie Souvestre. Strachey attended both: Allenswood in England and, in France near the forest of Fontainebleau, Les Ruches. Olivia is set at Les Ruches. It was, of course, a "beehive" of erotic activity. Top Student Eleanor Roosevelt plays a supporting role in a cast that includes Strachey's headmistress and later employer, Marie Souvestre, rivaling the narrator for the love of another teacher. Natalie and Laura Barney were also among Souvestre's notable boarders, and we learn in Barney's 1926 novel, Les amants feminins ou la troisième, that Natalie still kept a cottage nearby, thirty years later. Les Ruches left a lifelong impression upon most of its students, and so does Olivia. Much is written between the lines, so go slowly and savor what is not being said as much as what is being written. In that respect it reminds me of the other reigning majesty in the pantheon, A Legacy by Sybille Bedford. Of the two, Olivia is much easier to read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jamie (TheRebelliousReader)

    4 stars. This was such a good read but damn did it make me sad. I loved the writing and found the story to be engaging. The romance is subtle but it is very much doomed right from the start and you know it but I still was hoping for something happier in the end but of course all it did was break my heart in two. Olivia is a very naive and innocent character but I found her fascinating. Her and Mademoiselle Julie definitely have a connection and chemistry but the outside elements made it such a d 4 stars. This was such a good read but damn did it make me sad. I loved the writing and found the story to be engaging. The romance is subtle but it is very much doomed right from the start and you know it but I still was hoping for something happier in the end but of course all it did was break my heart in two. Olivia is a very naive and innocent character but I found her fascinating. Her and Mademoiselle Julie definitely have a connection and chemistry but the outside elements made it such a disaster. I thought this was such a great read. Heartbreaking, but well worth the read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Annabeth Leong

    When I bought this book I joked to my friend that books like this should come with a tragedy meter. "On a scale of 0-10, how likely are the lesbians to die at the end?" I was nervous that I'd be frustrated and wouldn't enjoy the book because of that tragic trope. However, I found myself drawn in by the writing style. I also really appreciated the sense of adolescent mystery that the book captured. The narrator, Olivia, hasn't really figured out what's going on with erotic connections—I don't thi When I bought this book I joked to my friend that books like this should come with a tragedy meter. "On a scale of 0-10, how likely are the lesbians to die at the end?" I was nervous that I'd be frustrated and wouldn't enjoy the book because of that tragic trope. However, I found myself drawn in by the writing style. I also really appreciated the sense of adolescent mystery that the book captured. The narrator, Olivia, hasn't really figured out what's going on with erotic connections—I don't think she quite knows what she is feeling, and I don't think she knows how to parse the behavior that goes on around her. This makes for a moving mystery story. I remember how it felt to not quite understand what was going on in myself and others. The novel is a fast, deceptively simple read, but there's a lot going on with the characters. I expect I'll be thinking about this for quite some time. And (***spoiler alert***) given how many of the characters read as lesbians to me, I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost none of them died at the end.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paloma Etienne

    Fantastic and passionate. Mlle Julia is a force of nature

  17. 4 out of 5

    panisafa

    [3.5] i quite liked this, the way it encompassed the frenzy of young love, the way it was fated for tragedy, the way it was overwhelmingly passionate. not a masterpiece, but a deeply emotional little read. now i want happy sapphics pls

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    I've sat on how I want to review this book for about two weeks now and I think I finally have my thoughts in order: Five star aspects: - Short. Perfect length for such a story and doesn't dwell on unnecessary aspects. - Beautifully written and easy to understand. - F/F classic! I still struggle to find wlw books that interest me to this day since most I see are 'young adult' which I don't read very much of anymore so representation for the classic lovers is a win. - Felt very authentic, first love is I've sat on how I want to review this book for about two weeks now and I think I finally have my thoughts in order: Five star aspects: - Short. Perfect length for such a story and doesn't dwell on unnecessary aspects. - Beautifully written and easy to understand. - F/F classic! I still struggle to find wlw books that interest me to this day since most I see are 'young adult' which I don't read very much of anymore so representation for the classic lovers is a win. - Felt very authentic, first love is very raw and emotional and I felt it was captured perfectly. Two star aspects: - Very little in terms of plot, there is one key event that happens in the last 30-ish pages but that is it. - Was over all not an enjoyable story to read. It took me over a month to read about 100 pages because it felt so much like a chore. Every time I forced myself to sit down with this book I would focus on how many more pages I had till I was done rather than being immersed. Based on these points I've decided to settle on three stars. I'm happy I read it, I like the story a lot, will I ever read it again? Not high on my priority list.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helly

    I really think this might be the best of the scary-all-girls-boarding-school genre. Bravo!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mana

    To be young and a teenager again when everything felt so serious and impactful. This Victorian novel explores the sexual awakening of the title character Olivia. In this novel, Olivia's mother has two friends who run a boarding school. When Olivia comes of age she joins the school. She's excited to reinvent herself. At her campus she grows close to some of her teachers. Perhaps too close. Strachey wrote this book late in life, which gives her perspective for the perspectives of Olivia, Signora, an To be young and a teenager again when everything felt so serious and impactful. This Victorian novel explores the sexual awakening of the title character Olivia. In this novel, Olivia's mother has two friends who run a boarding school. When Olivia comes of age she joins the school. She's excited to reinvent herself. At her campus she grows close to some of her teachers. Perhaps too close. Strachey wrote this book late in life, which gives her perspective for the perspectives of Olivia, Signora, and Mademosielles Julie and Cara. Olivia becomes infatuated with her teacher, an older woman, and is groomed by Signora who is closer to Olivia's age. Signora teaches Olivia how to act and what to expect. She becomes almost a blueprint of Olivia's ideal future. It's hard to condemn Olivia for her infatuation. Mademoiselle Julie introduces her to new experiences, shows her Paris, rich texts--all of which foreshadows the relationship upheavals and the novel's denouement. However, we should fully condemn Mademoiselle Julie for all of her behavior. This novel is a classic British Victorian with its polylingual European aristocrats, the examination of cis female gender expression, and loads of introspective brooding. The exploration of one's body and how young people see/treat themselves vs how other people see/treat them is expertly portrayed. Strachey is able to write young girls starved for validation, for affirmation without making them vapid or condemning them for their desires. There is a scene that's so classically British I cannot ignore it. During the party scene, Olivia's mom buys a sari after her trip from India. Olivia wears it as a costume, and Mademoiselle Julie calls Olivia her "little Indian." This is definitely gross but accurately portrays Britain as a colonial power in the 20th century. These rich, white women were able to go to lavish boarding schools and have sapphic sexual awakenings because of the oppression of different communities. Their causal racism further affirms these characters as the social elite of their time evidenced by which cultures they respect and which ones they deem as ornamental. This is a book full of emotion. It's loaded with introspection and little action until the last third of the novel, which is typical when compared to its contemporaries. This is a great book for those who love classics, coming of age stories, and sapphic journeys. Thank you, Penguin Classics, for providing a reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    Dedicated to the memory of Virginia Woolf, Olivia was Dorothy Strachey’s only novel. Published under the pseudonym ‘Olivia’ it is a subtle classic of lesbian literature. It is more of a novella really at just 114 pages in this edition, and I’ll be honest – I picked it mainly for its length as I near the end of my A Century of Books. The Afterword reveals that the French school featured in this novella is loosely based on Marie Souvestre’s Allenswood Academy, attended by both the author and Elean Dedicated to the memory of Virginia Woolf, Olivia was Dorothy Strachey’s only novel. Published under the pseudonym ‘Olivia’ it is a subtle classic of lesbian literature. It is more of a novella really at just 114 pages in this edition, and I’ll be honest – I picked it mainly for its length as I near the end of my A Century of Books. The Afterword reveals that the French school featured in this novella is loosely based on Marie Souvestre’s Allenswood Academy, attended by both the author and Eleanor Roosevelt, which in itself is rather fascinating. I’m not sure why – but I wasn’t altogether certain that I would enjoy Olivia – perhaps I read a review of it somewhere which put me off – however, I enjoyed it enormously. What a shame it is that Dorothy Strachey only ever published this. Dorothy Strachey’s writing is beautiful, and there is a lot that is very quotable from this slim volume. “Was this stab in my heart, this rapture, really mine or had I merely read about it? For every feeling, every vicissitude of my passion, there would spring into my mind a quotation from the poets. Shakespeare or Donne or Heine had the exact phrase for it. Comforting, perhaps, but enraging too. Nothing ever seemed spontaneously my own.” A woman recollects the final year of her education, a year when she discovered life at its fullest, found passion and in a sense, herself. Olivia is sixteen when she is sent to Les Avons a finishing school near Paris, run by two mademoiselles. This is a school of an entirely different kind. It is a school where there are few rules, where laughter and passionate discussion are actively encouraged. Olivia revels in this atmosphere so unlike anything she has experienced before. Full review: https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2018/...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alaina

    I cannot believe this work is not more well-known as an early book about the lesbian experience. Possibly autobiographical, it tells the story of a 16-year old girl's love for her teacher. A classic story, to be sure, but Bussy imbues such a passion and immediacy to her tale that it is my personal suspicion that the pain of her loss and her love never faded, even after 40+ years and a marriage. It is impossible to know. what is important is that this is a beautiful little book; an artless, guile I cannot believe this work is not more well-known as an early book about the lesbian experience. Possibly autobiographical, it tells the story of a 16-year old girl's love for her teacher. A classic story, to be sure, but Bussy imbues such a passion and immediacy to her tale that it is my personal suspicion that the pain of her loss and her love never faded, even after 40+ years and a marriage. It is impossible to know. what is important is that this is a beautiful little book; an artless, guileless story about a girl's innocent - but forbidden- love.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Soph

    I’ve been wanting to read this for a while but was intimidated by it, even though it’s a very short book. I knew this book would be heartbreaking and it was, in the best way. I completely felt Olivia’s equal joy and suffering, being in love with a woman who could not possibly love her back as she wanted. It is incredible to me to be able to read such a true account of queer love and desire, written more than 70 years ago.

  24. 5 out of 5

    …mark

    The ivory paper-cutter is lying on my desk as I write this. It has her name engraved on it: JULIE. Just a terrific read. I was introduced by the beautifully crafted review of s.penkevich READ–> Who in turn learned of it from Luce READ–> I recommend these reviews and this enchanting and subtle novel/memoir... mark The ivory paper-cutter is lying on my desk as I write this. It has her name engraved on it: JULIE. Just a terrific read. I was introduced by the beautifully crafted review of s.penkevich READ–> Who in turn learned of it from Luce READ–> I recommend these reviews and this enchanting and subtle novel/memoir... mark

  25. 5 out of 5

    l.

    Older women toying with schoolgirls' hearts and tragic lesbians about sums it up. Older women toying with schoolgirls' hearts and tragic lesbians about sums it up.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Juliana

    3,5 stars. My review: https://theblankgarden.com/2020/03/04... 3,5 stars. My review: https://theblankgarden.com/2020/03/04...

  27. 4 out of 5

    m.

    i was with her, beside her, for ever close to her, in that infinitely lovely, infinitely distant star, which shed its mingled rays of sorrow, affection and renouncement on the dark cold world below. took me five days to read 100 pages and it was so boring.. i have never been so let down by the sapphics 💔👎

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Olivia: A Novel left me with a rather bitter aftertaste, with the melange of love, worship and servitude all rolled into one and served together, upon the pedestal wherein Olivia placed Mlle Julie. I was as ambivalent as Olivia with regard to the perplexing Mlle Julie, and her seemingly bipolar mood swings. However, I wasn't fond of Olivia either, with the extremity of her neediness, nevertheless, I could empathize with her and the depths to which her love went. Olivia: A Novel left me with a rather bitter aftertaste, with the melange of love, worship and servitude all rolled into one and served together, upon the pedestal wherein Olivia placed Mlle Julie. I was as ambivalent as Olivia with regard to the perplexing Mlle Julie, and her seemingly bipolar mood swings. However, I wasn't fond of Olivia either, with the extremity of her neediness, nevertheless, I could empathize with her and the depths to which her love went.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emily Carter-Dunn

    I'm sure this was quite scandalous when it was first published. I enjoyed this book as it saw Olivia fall in love with her headmistress and the reactions of Mlle Julie. Part of me thinks that really Olivia fell in love with the idea of her, her brain, her contacts, her personality, not really a true love. I'm sure this was quite scandalous when it was first published. I enjoyed this book as it saw Olivia fall in love with her headmistress and the reactions of Mlle Julie. Part of me thinks that really Olivia fell in love with the idea of her, her brain, her contacts, her personality, not really a true love.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    Review to come. K & K buddy read. Just peachy!<3

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...