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Born to great wealth in 1876 and raised in Washington, D.C., and Bar Harbor, Maine, Barney was expected to marry well and lead the conventional life of a privileged society woman. But Natalie wasn't interested in marriage and made no secret of the fact that she was attracted to women.
Raised by a nonconformist and artistic mother -- the painter Alice Pike Barney -- Natalie developed an early interest in poetry and the arts. Moving to Paris at the century's turn, she plunged into the city's vibrant social and literary scene, quickly becoming known among the young, cutting-edge literati as "the rarest and most intelligent woman" of her time. She was equally renowned as a notorious seductress, one who effortlessly conquered the hearts of women and the minds of men. The story of her first notorious love affair -- with Liane de Pougy, the most sought-out courtesan of Belle E poque Paris -- was transformed by Liane, with Natalie's assistance, into a bestselling 1901 roman A clef. Natalie's lovers continued to write about her for decades -- sometimes impishly (Colette), or with brutal honesty (Lucie Delarue-Mardrus), or with a disturbing mixture of anger, worship, and grief (the tragic poet RenE Vivien). Men, including would-be lovers such as Remy deGourmont or Bernard Bereson, tended to write of Barney with admiration, even reverence. Ultimately, her powerful salon and compelling personality attracted the greatest figures of twentieth-century arts and letters, including Edna St. Vincent Millay, Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Truman Capote.
A dazzling literary biography, "Wild Heart: A Life is a story of a true rebel who came of age at a time when rebels weren't admired -- particularly if they were women -- and who has since become an icon to many others. Set against the backdrop of two different societies, Victorian America and Belle E poque Europe, "Wild Heart: A Life beautifully captures the richness of their love.
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