Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review: The Bolter by Frances Osborne

On Friday 25th May, 1934, a forty-one-year-old woman walked into the lobby of Claridge's Hotel to meet the nineteen-year-old son whose face she did not know. Fifteen years earlier, as the First World War ended, Idina Sackville shocked high society by leaving his multimillionaire father to run off to Africa with a near penniless man. An inspiration for Nancy Mitford's character The Bolter, painted by William Orpen, and photographed by Cecil Beaton, Sackville went on to divorce a total of five times, yet died with a picture of her first love by her bed. Her struggle to reinvent her life with each new marriage left one husband murdered and branded her the 'high priestess' of White Mischief's bed-hopping Happy Valley in Kenya. Sackville's life was so scandalous that it was kept a secret from her great-granddaughter Frances Osborne. Now, Osborne tells the moving tale of betrayal and heartbreak behind Sackville's road to scandal and return, painting a dazzling portrait of high society in the early twentieth century.

Review Number 1 - 30th - 31st October 2011:
Interesting story of a woman who was obviously ahead of the time she lived in. A woman - who rightly or wrongly - acted according to her own free will and refused to be constrained by the mores of the time. Notorious or notable - or both.

Update - 20th November 2014: 
I have just finished this book for the second time (19th November 2014). I am still held in the grip of this fascinating woman's personality and character. Even the second time round I am still feeling some empathy with Idina, despite the heartbreaking choices that she made in her married life, and despite some of the choices she made thereafter.

Book 1 deals with Idina's early life, her childhood and her first marriage and its subsequent breakdown. The Second Book deals with Idina's life in Kenya and her next set of marriages - making it five in total - and five divorces (we don't count her many, many lovers).

The 1920s and 1940s were a somewhat liberating time for women - many deciding to break free from the constricting structure of Edwardian life in England, and following their own path - sometimes towards happiness, sometimes towards self destruction.

The author Frances Osborne is the great-granddaughter of Idina - a woman not mentioned in family circles and one who was not regarded as a role-model. The author takes us through her own journey of discovery and presents for us a woman with all her foibles, a woman of strength and frailty, a woman not of her times, a woman who draws us back into her web and keeps us within her grip as her life unfolds before us.

Read this in conjunction with Paul Spicer's "The Temptress" and James Fox's "White Mischief".

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November Additions To The Library

November is now here and with a lovely gift voucher from my online book shop, here are the additions to the Library for November:

The Borgias: A Hidden History by G.J. Meyer
The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of "The Tudors" and "A World Undone." 

Lucretia Borgia: An Exceptional and Notorious Woman of the Renaissance Papacy by Ferdinand Gregorovius
A legend of beauty and seduction The very name of Lucrezia Borgia remains, some 500 years after her time, enough to send a frisson of a thrill down the spine-particularly of men! The Lucrezia of legend has become an archetypal 'femme fatale'-beautiful, seductive and potentially deadly. 

Late Merovingian France: History and Hagiography, 640-720 edited & translated by Richard A. Gerberding
This collection of documents in translation brings together the seminal sources for the late Merovingian Frankish kingdom. 

The Welsh Kings: Warriors, Warlords and Princes by  K. L. Maund
When Edward I's troops forced the destruction of Dafydd ap Gruffudd in 1283 they brought to an end the line of truly independent native rulers in Wales that had endured throughout recorded history. In the early middle ages Wales was composed of a variety of independent kingdoms with varying degrees of power, influence and stability, each ruled by proud and obdurate lineages. 

Kingdom and People of Kent: Their History and Archaeology by Sue Harrington and Stuart Brookes
The Kingdom and People of Kent

Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom by Paul Gething and Edoardo Albert
Northumbria was one of the great kingdoms of Britain in the Dark Ages, enduring longer than the Roman Empire. Yet it has been all but forgotten. This book puts Northumbria back in its rightful place, at the heart of British history.

The Death of Kings: A Medical History of the Kings and Queens of England by Clifford Brewer
Distinguished surgeon Clifford Brewer T.D F.R.C.S. has made the death of kings the study of a life time, examining every act of violence and each unpleasant disease with a razor sharp eye for detail. 

The Gourmet Farmer Deli Book by Matthew Evans, Ross O'Meara and Nick Haddow
Matthew Evans brings us a beautifully photographed new book celebrating the way we used to cook food and how it used to taste.

Happy reading!