Cover image for Echo
Trefusis, Violet, 1894-1972.
Uniform Title:
Echo. English
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1990.
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Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Violet Trefusis is known principally for her relationship with Vita Sackville-West, as the daughter of Alice Keppel, as mistress to Edward VII, and for her autobiography, Don't Look Round. In Violet to Vita (see review, p.595), she writes that she did not express herself well in English; thus, Echo, set in her second home, Scotland, was originally written in French, the tongue of "all self-respecting Scots." In the Scottish Highlands, fraternal twins Malcolm and Jean, raised with none of the polish of civilization, encounter their cosmopolitan cousin Sauge. Sauge is diverting herself from the boredom of her married life in France by a sojourn in their aunt's castle. The leitmotif of the book is androgyny, with the male and female characters, like Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights or Shirin and Venn in Sackville-West's Dark Island, embodying two aspects of the same persona. Sauge may well be modeled on Trefusis herself. The translation flows, the book holds and haunts, and its appeal extends beyond the readership for gothic novels because of the author's history. ~--Marie Kuda

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this 1931 novel by a lover of Vita Sackville-West (and the daughter of King Edward VII's mistress Alice Keppel), an irresistibly sophisticated heroine distracts the reader from a plot overcast with disasters. Sauge is an elegant Parisian sent to her aunt's Scottish home for a rest cure; Aunt Agnes, the Lady Balquidder, is also the guardian of ungainly twins, 20-year-old brother and sister Malcolm and Jean, who, refusing to be socialized, spend all their time hunting on the moors or plotting in the room they call the ``arsenal'' (`` `In France . . . you don't have children like that,' '' Agnes apologizes to Sauge, ``as one might say, `In France you don't have bandits now, do you? You don't see wolves any more?' ''). Sauge, for her own divertissement, sets out to tame the two, practicing on them her literally fatal charms. The international cast allows sly Trefusis, who wrote the novel in French, innumerable opportunities for witticisms about various ethnic types: ``In the Scotswoman, every paradox is on view: . . . mysticism battling against the role of the housewife; Calvinism crashing through the haunts of the great god Pan.'' Sinfully good. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Trefusis's mother was once King Edward VII's mistress, and the splendors and miseries inherent in this situation shaped the daughter's outlook. The letters collected here shed light on her affair with Sackville-West, already recounted by Sackville-West's son, Nigel Nicolson, in his Portrait of a Marriage ( LJ 10/15/73). Trefusis mythologized Sackville-West into her bold, free gypsy lover. Between 1918 and 1921 the two enjoyed interludes on the Continent, but Sackville-West finally chose to remain with her husband, Harold Nicolson, while Trefusis reluctantly returned to the husband who had knowingly married her at the height of the affair. Trefusis saw their affair in terms of social and personal liberation. Mistrust, money, scenes in hotels and stations, outraged parents, and ambiguous husbands inform Trefusis's rich brew of rapture and misery. Portions of her correspondence appeared in Philippe Jullian and John Phillips's The Other Woman (LJ 10/1/76) and the whole is here available with a substantial introduction and notes. Echo , originally published in 1930 and available for the first time in English, effectively uses the Scottish Highlands Trefusis loved; it dramatizes the destructive effects of a sophisticated, androgynous young Parisienne on her twin cousins, who have been leading a Catherine-Heathcliff existence. Both books are recommended for gay and lesbian collections as well as those focusing on the Bloomsbury Group and their friends.-- Barbara J. Dunlap, City Coll., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This slender volume is really not more than a novelette, or a long short story, but it interests from a variety of viewpoints. Not least is the author herself, the partner with Vita Sackville-West, in a scandalous and dangerous lesbian romance in the early part of the 20th century. Also of interest is that this fictional work, originally published in French in 1931, has not been readily available. Also of note is the fusion of its themes: Sauge, a sophisticated Parisienne, goes to visit her young Scottish cousins, Malcolm and Jean, in their castle. Each promptly falls in love with her, making for an androgynous love triangle not unlike the author's early affair. Although the plot is slender, there is variety in characterization and some richness in the evocation of a type of Scottish life. Represented are the major themes in the author's own life: her cosmopolitan life in Europe from 1921 to her death in 1972, and her early and lasting love of Scotland and Dunreath Castle, her ancestral home. Echo is the second of her 11 novels. There is a short introduction by John Phillips who knew Violet in Florence, from 1960 until her death. Of interest probably only to specialists in the period or to the general reader with eclectic tastes. -R. T. Van Arsdel, emerita, University of Puget Sound