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This article is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

Three Novels by Violet Trefusis Michael Holroyd
Violet Trefusis, who wrote in both French and English, was essentially a European writer. She travelled widely throughout her life and liked to explore, partly as comedy, partly as a stimulant to tragedy, the cultural differences between European countries. In The Hook in the Heart, written in English and begun during the mid-to-late 1920s when she was in her early thirties, she contrasts France, where she was happiest as an adult, with Spain. She had visited Spain and makes some acute observations of its people and impressions of its landscape. But she places a fantasy at the core of this social realism and guides her readers into a fairyland castle. Here they find the servants all asleep, encounter a Machiavellian devil disguised as a priest and witness a matriarchal figure tempting our heroine with an ill-omened necklace. This is a magical place of dreams and nightmares.

To Cécile, the central character in the novel, France (and especially Paris) had been a place of conventions and compromises, a sophisticated community that belonged to women as much as to men. But, having been turned down by an attractive Frenchman, she decides to put the flirtations and play-acting of French society behind her and becomes engaged to a punctilious Spanish duke. She is also ready to leave her mother, whose chief passion is a horror of scandal (which may bring to mind Violet Trefusis’s mother, Alice Keppel, a royal mistress of extreme discretion). Cécile’s mother has done little to support her daughter. ...

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