Book: A Book of Secrets

A brilliant, funny review by Toni Bentley of what appears to be the final masterpiece of biographer, Sir Michael De Courcy Fraser Holroyd,

While it wanders from one famous or infamous Brit to another, it is the Vita-Violet story that drew me in wanting to rush to a book seller to gather the book to my breast and read its passages.

I've always been fascinated by this crowd, and even after years of reading about them, I can read about them still.

On a few occasions I've been among a crowd; once as a teen, another time on my fortieth anniversary, and lastly when I formed a women's club in Rhode Island, with the able assistance of many other terrific members of the female sex.

Crowds set one apart, and are often treacherous both for its members and for those outside its realm.  My teenage crowd was rather harmless, and circled around eating pickles at 7.15 in the morning, and secretly puffing on shared cigarettes, often hidden in my bicycle basket.  I was not the ring-leader, but certainly assertive among the dozen or more 9th graders--or at least that is how I remember it and it is retold on the rarest occasions I meet one of those high school friends.

The crowd that formed before and long after my 40th was more similar to the Bloomsbury crowd that Vita and Violet, and of course let's not forget Virginia, shared.  We were a smallish pack of wannabe wonders in dirty shorts, and loose linen shirts, blueberry fields, Wharf life, and fed on excellent New England claim chowder.  One of the group held antique auctions, another joined me, or rather I joined with, and opened a splendiferous art gallery at the height of a downward turn on the market which sold only 19th century Americana, another was a budding artist who had taken a degree in literature and done a thesis on Kafka.  (Ultimately he succeeded and sells quite well these days but only near home.)  We were a motley group of less than half a dozen, with one member falling in and another falling out with no obvious reason.

One of our best Bloomsbury moments was a week long rental on Block Island.  Friends joined us from New York, Providence, Boston and home.  I even having a photo or two to prove how raucous, rowdy, and inhibited we were, although we pretended otherwise.  Our failing was not mischief in the physical sense, but rather destructive psychologically--we enabled each other for good or bad.  During that week I held the keys to our only automobile, a late model Mercedes diesel wagon that needed constant attention.  I guarded the keys with my life for fear one of the group would take a hankering to leave the Island and strand us, or rather me without a way back to our Kingston pad.  Yet, I believe we all had a marvelous time and our house guests talked about their visit fondly.

The last crowd I called my own was composed of dozens of women, one calling out to the other, to join and form a women's only club.  Three of us came up with this idea one lazy summer day on A's terrace in Westerley and before we knew it, women were coming out of corners, law offices, art studios, and government buildings, clamoring to join us.  If you don't know Rhode Island this might sound "unreal" but the State is so small that if one person sounds a horn in Westerley, as A did, others will hear and respond in Providence, Bristol, Narragansett, Newport and Little Compton.  And they did!

The idea was formed around a mystery novel I read which we passed around.  I don't know what happened to the book, couldn't recall its title but the plot has stayed with me--soundly.  Although I hadn't realized it, I was very much the glue that held the group together and after I left Providence and Rhode Island, the group petered out and our dues returned to the members.

None of my groups can be compared to the Bloomsbury troupe, no novels have been written by us or about us, and only B's beautiful oil paintings which can be found in a gallery at the Cape tell any part of the story we created and left behind.

So perhaps it is vicarious to pour over the three Vs and those others who circled around in alphabetical order.

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