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Ida Nettleship was a flamboyant Bohemian who gave up a promising artistic career to marry Augustus John. She had five pregnancies in just six years, lived with Augustus and his mistress in a ménage à trois, and died exhausted in childbirth aged thirty. Ida’s story of unconventional love is equalled by two other Bohemian women of the same era: Picasso’s first love Fernande Olivier, who was prominent in the Paris art scene, and the writer Sophie Brzeska, who lived with the artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, nineteen years her junior - he would die in the First World War and Sophie’s slow descent into mental instability would begin. Bohemian Lives follows the achievements and sacrifices of the three women and how their lives overlapped and contrasted, in education, childbirth, illness, marriage - and psychological disintegration. All three women had a huge influence on their more famous partner and challenged the accepted model of male–female relations of the time. At once touching and harrowing, their struggles for recognition in their own right hold a mirror up to the prejudices of an age - and what being ‘bohemian’ really meant.
'This is a meticulously researched book. So meticulous that if you asked the author what Ida had for breakfast on a given day she could probably tell you. The structure is engaging as the women's stories are intermingled and woven together, so although these three never met the reader gains a sense of their shared struggles, passions and emotions. Licence has a special ability to get inside the minds of the women so that we feel that their real voices are rising from the page to be heard above the noise and bluster of their more famous lovers. As readable as a novel and yet as factually accurate as it's possible to be, this is a fascinating glimpse into bohemianism. There are even treats at the end in the form of some previously unpublished poems and a play extract by Sophie Brzeska. Licence has worked her magic to bring these three forgotten figures to vibrant life once more and to allow their light to shine. An important and memorable collective biography.' Amazon review.