Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter by Diana Souhami
If you’ve ever been fascinated by the splendor and romance of the British royalty, this book is certain to change your perspective. Spanning a little over a half-century – from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century – it tells the story of a mother and daughter caught up in the sexual intrigues of the day.
Alice Keppel is the mistress of Edward VII – a role that is both admirable and acceptable. Violet, her daughter, is madly in love with her childhood friend Vita – but her desire for a monogamous lesbian relationship is one that “correct” society cannot abide. Under the era’s prevailing moral ambiguity, a “proper” marriage must be maintained for appearance’s sake, although dalliances – with the opposite sex, the same sex or often both – are perfectly fitting.
As the world changes around them, both women valiantly try to hold onto what they feel is most important in life, emotionally as well as materially. Their desperate attempts gave me the feeling that they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time – with Alice stuck in the past and Violet trapped in a world that was not yet ready for her. Perhaps what suffered most was their relationship with each other, as they focused on their differences and never quite realized just how similar they were.