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SISTERS OF SALOME -- Other Reviews

Toni Bentley's Sisters of Salome reviewed by CHOICE

Sisters of Salome

A former ballet dancer and now independent scholar-writer, Bentley weaves a fascinating story of four 19th-century women, each inspired by the story of Salome (by way of either Oscar Wilde's 1893 play or Richard Strauss's 1905 opera). Key players in the Salomania craze, the four contributed prominently to the evolution of the femme fatale. Selected by Bentley as the centerpieces of this intriguing, sensitive, and well-written study are Maud Allan, a virtually forgotten Canadian modern dancer; Mata Hari, the falsely accused Dutch spy; Ida Rubinstein, a Russian theatrical diva with marginal talent who became in old age a religious penitent; and the French novelist and performer Colette. Of the four, only Colette broke free of Salome; the others "became entrapped by her image, relegated to tragedy or obscurity." With informative background on the Wilde and Strauss creations, this book not only explores the ancient myth on stage and in real life but also sheds light on how the four principals creatively used the role of Salome both for artistic purposes and personal power and liberation. Well-chosen illustrations; excellent documentation. Recommended for all academic libraries serving upper-division undergraduates through faculty and for large public libraries.

February 2003 --D. B. Wilmeth, Brown University, CHOICE

Toni Bentley in the New York Times Book Review

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