Subtitled My Secret Life with Anaïs Nin, Apprenticed to Venus is the part memoir, part novel of Tristine Rainier, who mentored under the famous diarist.
Although I have been inspired by Nin’s words, I have known very little about her, so I was eager to read this book. Rainier, on an errand from her artist aunt, encounters Anaïs at her home in New York, and from there becomes part of the bizarre and tantalizing underworld of Nin’s complicated life.
The story begins with a very naive and impressionable Tristine, who is anxious to stay in her idol’s good books. In modern day terms, Nin is a classic narcissist, who uses others for her own gain, and even though Tristine experiences the warmth and distancing characteristic of such a personality, she remains loyal to Anaïs, questioning her own motivations right to the end, and defending the lessons that Nin’s influence has taught her.
Rainier’s commitment to Nin is contagious, and I found myself also drawn in by the eccentric’s charm, wanting to know more.
Interspersed with Nin’s story is Rainier’s own story, from shy teenager to accomplished literary figure in her own right.
Apprenticed to Venus is primarily the story of two women and the bonds that define their relationship. It is also about celebrity, and love, and the search for women’s equality. There is nothing conventional about Anaïs Nin, as witnessed by Rainier’s account, and I think that is perhaps why I shall continue to be inspired by her.