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Olivia by Dorothy Strachey

Olivia (1949)

by Dorothy Strachey

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Showing 5 of 5
"This stab in my heart, this rapture"
By sally tarbox on 21 November 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
A short (107p) read, following young Olivia and her year at a finishing school in Victorian Paris. Here she falls under the spell of lovely Mlle Julie, co-principal. But despite Julie's apparent affection for her, there are other players in the story: her jealous assistant, Mlle Cara - and two other teachers, waiting in the wings for power or love.
The author does a convincing job of portraying that sudden adolescent awareness of life:

"I 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."
Not a massively memorable work, but kept me reading it in one sitting. ( )
1 vote starbox | Nov 20, 2016 |
Complex with a lot of ambiguities and unanswered questions between teacher/student. A decent read. 3 stars. ( )
  Feleciak | Aug 4, 2015 |
A coming of age story written around 1935 and finally published in 1949. Started off with an interesting introduction. Which was the only in the sample I tried. I'm somewhat glad of that. Otherwise I probably would not have bought it.

Beginning was a little off putting. In a tell not show way the author proceeded to give some details of Olivia up to a religious school she hated in England, and then over to a finishing school near Paris. But then . . . then the story picked up, grasped me and wouldn't let me go. Never really lost the tell not show vibe, but a lovely told story. ( )
  Lexxi | Feb 4, 2015 |
Inspired by the actual school lives of historical figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Strachey's characters come alive in the imagination. Although this piece is short and somewhat tragic, its characters are vivid and fun. I very much enjoyed the sexual freedom of Olivia, as well as its setting and overall composition. ( )
  senbei | Apr 22, 2014 |
This short novel appears to have been influenced by the author's own experiences at a school in France; in it, the protagonist Olivia is sent to a school near Paris as a 16-year-old, and she develops a crush on one of the teachers while having to witness the play for power among the staff. ( )
  mari_reads | May 6, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Strachey, Dorothyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marler, ReginaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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L'on n'aime bien qu'une seule fois: c'est la première.
Les amours qui suivent sont moins involontaires.

-La Bruyère
To The Beloved Memory of V.W.
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I have occupied this idle, empty winter with writing a story.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
"Love has always been the chief business of my life . . . May the Gods grant me not to have profaned a rare and beautiful memory"

In this famous novel, first published in 1949, a woman recollects an extraordinary year "when life was, if not at its fullest, at any rate at its most poignant . . . the year when I first became conscious of myself". Olivia is sixteen years old when she goes to Les Avons, a finishing school near Paris, run by two Mademoiselles. It is a place of few rules, of laughter and lively conversation -- a welcome surprise for a reserved young English girl. But the gaiety and freedom of Les Avons is only surface deep and emotional liaisons and jealousies form the hidden curriculum. Very quickly Olivia too is caught up in its spell, overwhelmed by her increasing infatuation with Mademoiselle Julie. Here she describes the powerful allegiances and repressed desires which smolder at this secluded school, and the intensity and desperation of adolescent love.

Olivia is the pseudonym for Dorothy Strachey, (1866-1960), sister of Lytton Strachey. She lived with her husband, the painter Simon Bussy, at Roquebrune, France, and was a great friend of Matisse and André Gide. Olivia is her only novel.
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When Olivia turns 16 she is sent to a Parisian finishing school to broaden her education. Soon after her arrival, she finds herself falling under the spell of her beautiful & charismatic teacher. But Madamoiselle Julie's life is not as straightforward as Olivia imagines & the school year is destined to end abruptly in tragedy.… (more)

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