"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.