CHALLENGE was Vita Sackville-West’s second novel. It was ready to go to print in 1920, but the aughor suddenly changed her mind. This was not because she lacked confidence in her work,but because of the scandal it would have caused. CHALLENGE remained unpublished for over fifty years.
Vita’s love affair with Violet Trefusis had reached its peak, and, eloping to France, they decided to abandon everything and everyone – children and husbands included – to spend the rest of their lives together. Although they returned to their families eventually, CHALLENGE remains a testament of their love, and was written during that period.
The hero, Julian, might be a Byronic young Englishman, and Eve the woman he adores; it may be an adventure tale about a revolt on a Greek island. But really, this is a love story, written in the presence of the beloved, and inspired by her. And, as its title implies, the novel is a challenge to the society that condemned Vita and her lover.