This richly imagined novel tells the surprising story of two of Bloomsbury's most unlikely lovers - John Maynard Keynes, the distinguished economist, and the extrovert Russian dancer Lydia Lopokova. Firebird is the third novel of prize-winning author Susan Sellers, who is also an expert on Bloomsbury and the writing of Virginia Woolf.
Weaving biography and fiction, Firebird explores the tangle of Bloomsbury's bohemian relationships as lifestyles are challenged and allegiances shift following Lydia's explosive arrival.
It is the winter of 1921 and Diaghilev's Ballets Russes launch a flamboyant new production at London's Alhambra Theatre. Maynard Keynes is in the audience, though he expects little from the evening. Despite Lydia's many triumphs, including the title role in Stravinsky's Firebird, Maynard's mind is made up - he considers her 'a rotten dancer'. Besides, Lydia has at least one husband in tow and Maynard has only ever loved men. Tonight, however, he is moved by her performance, and when the ballet closes in financial disaster leaving its cast penniless, he invites Lydia to move into his Bloomsbury house.
No strangers to scandalously unconventional liaisons, Maynard's Bloomsbury friends - Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Vanessa and Clive Bell, Duncan Grant and Lytton Strachey - are intrigued to find the resolutely homosexual Maynard falling for a woman. They assume it is a passing fad. After all, Lydia is a noisy, uneducated chatterbox, while Maynard is a brilliant intellectual whose encylopaedic knowledge and genius for strategy have already made him indispensable to the Treasury. But when Maynard pulls out of a Royal Commission tour to stay close to Lydia, his friends realise they must act. As Virginia writes to her sister Vanessa, everything they value risks ruin from this 'parokeet' whose conversation is limited to 'one shriek, two dances'. Anything other than a brief affair would be 'a fatal and irreparable mistake'. Maynard must be rescued from himself.
Vividly recreating Lydia's life-changing journey from Tsarist St Petersburg to Jazz Age London via the Paris of Proust and Picasso, this compelling new novel celebrates a love story that is utterly unexpected, true, and stranger than fiction.