I read Olivia, by Olivia in its very first 1949 edition. I made researches to know who Olivia could be and I found: Dorothy Bussy (1865-1960), English, published three works, only one of them was a novel: Olivia in 1949. She has it published under the pseudonym Olivia. In my 1949 edition, the name Dorothy Bussy is not even mentioned.
This novel caused a scandal when it was published. Why? Because it is a disguised autobiography and its subject is the author's love for her female teacher.
In this autobiographical novel, Olivia, a sixteen-year-old English girl, is sent to a renowned French boarding school to study. Two lovers women run it: Miss Julie, - in real life Marie Souvestre (1835-1905), French - and Miss Cara.
As soon as she arrived in this small boarding school which accommodated no more than thirty-five teenager girls, Olivia fell in love with Miss Julie, who did not seem indifferent to the young girl. This love might be chaste, except for a few hand rubs and rare hugs. But no matter what the blur, love is there, real, passionate.
Olivia throws herself into love whole-heartedly, without having the key of what this love is. It's her first love, it's violent, whole, handsome. Olivia will discover that it is love, she will also discover jealousy, selfishness, hatred, anything that comes behind love or upsets it.
If she loved afterwards, this first love will have left its mark on her for ever.
"She was reading for me. For me, for me alone. I knew it. Yes, only I could understand. I, and no one else! And, once again, through my whole being, I tasted this feeling of total intimacy, of close communication, that words, that even caresses are powerless to awaken. I was with her forever; I was close to her, at her side, in this infinitely beautiful, infinitely distant area, whose divine radiance spread over our dark and icy world, the warmth of pity, tenderness, renunciation."
A very beautiful love story, full of nuance, where classical literature and poetry, taught at the school and read to her students by Miss Julie, can arouse the impulses of the heart, as well as soothe hearts in love or unhappy ones.
There is a passage in the book that touched me personally. A person who is dear to me, in my life, has taken a wrong path for years, wrong for her and her family. I realized that months ago. But she doesn't want my help and refuses to face the reality of her situation. She runs to disaster, it breaks my heart, and my powerlessness gnaws at me. I try to get used to the idea that you can't help a person in spite of her or him, despite all the desire you have to be helpfull. Everyone is responsible for their choices and their lives. That's why, when I read the following passage, it helped me to accept:
"Poor Miss Cara had been a weak, selfish and vain creature. That's how I judged her. She had allowed herself to be degraded by suffering; she had not known how to fight against jealousy and bad pride. Would she have been able to fight? I didn't know. But we could fight and I could fight! Between good and evil, to choose good was all what we had to do, was it?"
Great female authors do us good! ©