Prosecuted for obscenity in her novel Monsieur Venus, Marguerite Eymery (pen name Rachilde), an apparently genteel young woman from a provincial bourgeois family, burst onto the French literary scene in 1884 amid scandal. This story of a sadistic transvestite and her pretty male lover was the first in a long series of novels, plays and stories dealing often in the most macabre and sensationalistic terms with sadism, gender inversion, and sexual desire. At the heart of the French literary world, Rachilde's life and writing defied patriarchal rules, particularly in relation to female sexuality, but she consistently and vehemently rejected feminism. Her extraordinary life and work, including a vast output as a literary reviewer, offer a prism through which to view the vibrant social and cultural history of France from the belle epoque to the Second World War. This book is the first serious critical study of Rachilde's work. Exploring the interwoven themes of French naturalism, modernism, decadence and feminism, it will be essential reading for anyone interested in French culture, literature and sexuality at the turn of the twentieth century.
'A fascinating and comprehensive overview of Rachilde's life; [Holmes] gives discerning analyses of her work; locates her in the contexts of French literary and political history; and deals with the feminist/anti-feminist ideas of her work, and her aesthetic choices as a woman writer. [The book is] exemplary in terms of content, depth of research, and theoretical timeliness.' Elaine Showalter, Princeton University 'An intelligent reading of many of Rachilde's writings ... An outstanding and thorough introduction to this intriguing writer.' New Zealand Journal of French Studies 'Holmes' book is a welcome and valuable addition to the growing body of work on this important author.' Modern and Contemporary France '...[offers] rigorous research and analysis of Rachilde's vast literary production.' Choice 'Rachilde is one of those remarkable nineteenth-century French women who have begun to emerge from the shadows in the last fifteen years or so. An increasing number of research students are working on her, and for this reason alone Diana Holme's excellent study - the first full-length one in English - is timely, providing well-judged and stimulating analyses of Rachilde's lesser works as well as of better known ones like Monsieur Venus. However it is also valuable as a model of how a literary biography ought to be written.' Modern Language Review