Diana Souhami’s Lambda Award–winning biography is a fascinating look at one of the twentieth century’s most intriguing lesbian literary figures.
Born in 1880, Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall was a young unwanted child when her parents put an end to their tempestuous marriage by filing for divorce. She had already made tentative forays into lesbian love when her father died, leaving her an heiress at eighteen. Her income assured, Hall moved out of her mother’s house, renamed herself John in honor of her great-great-grandfather, and divided her time among hunting, traveling, and pursuing women. She began to write—songs, poetry, prose, and short stories—and achieved success as a novelist, but it was with the publication of The Well of Loneliness in 1928 that Radclyffe Hall became an internationally known figure. Dubbed the “bible of lesbianism,” the book caused a scandal on both sides of the Atlantic. Though moralistic in tone, because of its subject matter it was tried as obscene in America and in the United Kingdom, where it was censored under the Obscene Publications Act.
The Trials of Radclyffe Hall is a fascinating, no-holds-barred account of the life of this controversial woman, including her torrid relationship with the married artist Una Troubridge, who was Hall’s devoted partner for twenty-eight years.