Raised like a princess in one of the most powerful families in the American South, Henrietta Bingham was offered the helm of a publishing empire. Instead, she ripped through the Jazz Age like an F. Scott Fitzgerald character: intoxicating and intoxicated, selfish and shameless, seductive and brilliant, endearing and often terribly troubled.Read more...
Raised like a princess in one of the most powerful families in the American South, Henrietta Bingham was offered the helm of a publishing empire. Instead, she ripped through the Jazz Age like an F. Scott Fitzgerald character: intoxicating and intoxicated, selfish and shameless, seductive and brilliant, endearing and often terribly troubled. In New York, Louisville, and London, she drove both men and women wild with desire, and her youth blazed with sex. But her love affairs with women made her the subject of derision and caused a doctor to try to cure her queerness. After the speed and pleasure of her early days, the toxicity of judgment from others coupled with her own anxieties resulted in years of addiction and breakdowns. And perhaps most painfully, she became a source of embarrassment for her family-she was labeled "a three-dollar bill." But forebears can become fairy-tale figures, especially when they defy tradition and are spoken of only in whispers. For the biographer and historian Emily Bingham, the secret of who her great-aunt was, and just why her story was concealed for so long, led to "Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham."
Henrietta rode the cultural cusp as a muse to the Bloomsbury Group, the daughter of the ambassador to the United Kingdom during the rise of Nazism, the seductress of royalty and athletic champions, and a pre-Stonewall figure who never buckled to convention. Henrietta's audacious physicality made her unforgettable in her own time, and her ecstatic and harrowing life serves as an astonishing reminder of the stories lying buried in our own families.
- ISBN-13: 9780809094646
- ISBN-10: 0809094649
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publish Date: June 2015
- Page Count: 384
- Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-04-06
- Reviewer: Staff
In lovely prose, historian Bingham (Mordecai: An Early American Family) draws readers behind the veil of silence surrounding her great-aunt Henrietta, who was part of a wealthy, politically influential Kentucky family. Henrietta was very young when her mother died, and navigated a difficult, nearly incestuous relationship with her narcissistic father. She met her first love, the composition professor Mina Kerstein, at Smith College in the early 1920s. They subsequently spent time in England, where Mina, intellectually intrigued by their mutual sexual desires, arranged for their psychoanalysis with a Freudian doctor. Bingham is at her best when describing Henrietta’s conflicted feelings about her sexuality as she drifted into acquaintance with the Bloomsbury literary crowd and had affairs with both men and women, including artist Dora Carrington and future producer/actor John Houseman. But Henrietta comes across as less interesting than the company she kept, a minor character overshadowed by the much larger personalities and events of the 20th century. Though the story is weighed down by the minutiae of Henrietta’s life and fails to offer much insight on her era, it succeeds as a psychological study of an unusual woman. Illus. (June)