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The Bolter

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The Bolter Cover

 

Staff Pick

This illuminating biography of Idina Sackville fulfilled my expectations, exploring the desires, wildness, and sadness of a woman enticed by an age of jazz dancing and intoxicants, from heights of euphoric delight to depths of tragedy. Bolter includes letters, diaries, and beautiful photos, and is exquisitely written. Lovely. I almost feel like I knew her.
Recommended by Adrienne, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

She was irresistible. She inspired fiction, fantasy, legend, and art.

Some say she was “the Bolter” of Nancy Mitfords novel The Pursuit of Love. She “played” Iris Storm in Michael Arlens celebrated novel about fashionable Londons lost generation, The Green Hat, and Greta Garbo played her in A Woman of Affairs, the movie made from Arlens book. She was painted by Orpen; photographed by Beaton; she was the model for Molyneauxs slinky wraparound dresses that became the look fo the age—the Jazz Age.

Though not conventionally beautiful (she had a “shot-away chin”), Idina Sackville dazzled men and women alike, and made a habit of marrying whenever she fell in love—five husbands in all and lovers without number.

Hers was the age of bolters, and Idina was the most celebrated of them all.

Her father was the eighth Earl De La Warr. In a society that valued the antiquity of families and their money, hers was as old as a British family could be (eight hundred years earlier they had followed William the Conqueror from Normandy and been given enough land to live on forever . . . another ancestor, Lord De La Warr, rescued the starving Jamestown colonists in 1610, became governor of Virginia, and gave his name to the state of Delaware). Her mothers money came from “trade”; Idinas maternal grandfather had employed more men (85,000) than the British army and built one third of the worlds railroads.

Idinas first husband was a dazzling cavalry officer, one of the youngest, richest, and best-looking of the available bachelors, with “two million in cash.” They had a seven-story pied-à-terre on Connaught Place overlooking Marble Arch and Hyde Park, as well as three estates in Scotland. Idina had everything in place for a magnificent life, until the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand caused the newlyweds world—the world theyd assumed would last forever—to collapse in less than a year.

Like Mitfords Bolter, young Idina Sackville left her husband and children. But in truth it was her husband who wrecked their marriage, making Idina more a boltee than a bolter. Soon she found a lover of her own—the first of many—and plunged into a Jazz Age haze of morphine. She became a full-blown flapper, driving about London in her Hispano-Suiza, and pusing the boundaries of behavior to the breaking point. British society amy have adored eccentrics whose differences celebrated the values they cherished, but it did not embrace those who upset the order of things. And in 1918, just after the Armistice was signed, Idina Sackville bolted from her life in England and, setting out with her second husband, headed for Mombasa, in search of new adventure.

Frances Osborne deftly tells the tale of her great-grandmother using Idinas never-before-seen letters; the diaries of Idinas first husband, Euan Wallace; and stories from family members. Osborne follows Idina from the champagne breakfasts and thé dansants of lost-generation England to the foothills of Kenyas Aberdare moutnains and the wild abandon of her role in Kenyas disintegration postwar upper-class life. A parade of lovers, a murdered husband, chaos everywhere—as her madcap world of excess darkened and crumbled around her.

Review:

"Osborne's lively narrative brings Lady Idina Sackville (an inspiration for Nancy Mitford's character the Bolter) boldly to life, with a black lapdog named Satan at her side and a cigarette in her hand. Osborne (Lilla's Feast) portrays a desperately lonely woman who shocked Edwardian high society with relentless affairs and drug-fueled orgies. Idina's story unfolds in an intimate tone thanks to the author, her great-granddaughter, who only accidentally discovered the kinship in her youth with the media serialization of James Fox's White Mischief. Osborne makes generous use of sources and private family photos to add immediacy and depth to the portrait of a woman most often remembered as an amoral five-time divorce: the author shows her hidden kindnesses at her carefully preserved Kenyan cattle ranch — a refuge from the later destructive Kenyan massacres. Still, Osborne unflinchingly exposes Idina's flaws — along with those of everyone else in the politely adulterous high society — while ably couching them in the context of the tumultuous times in which Idina resolved to find happiness in all the wrong places. The text, most lyrical when describing the landscapes around Idina's African residences, proves that an adventurous spirit continues to run in this fascinating family. 66 photos, (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"The Bolter" is a biography of Lady Idina Sackville, cousin of the novelist Vita Sackville-West, written by Idina's great-granddaughter Frances Osborne. The idea was given to the author by Errol Trzebinski (author of a biography of Joss Hay, the 22nd earl of Errol, Idina's third husband), who persuaded Osborne "that not only was there a book in Idina, but it was one that ought to be written."

... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

Published in England to unanimous acclaim (Frances Osborne has brilliantly captured not only one woman's life but an entire lost society--Amanda Foreman): the life of the beautiful, fearless Idina Sackville--descendant of one of England's oldest families--who was the cause of one of the great scandals of Edwardian England.

She was irresistible: slight, girlish, well dressed, and though not conventionally beautiful (she had a shotaway chin), she dazzled men and women alike. She made a habit of marrying (five times) whenever she fell in love and taking lovers whenever she wanted. But her notoriety was sealed when she left her husband and two young children in search of a new adventurous life and bolted to Kenya, where in the 1920s she became known as the high priestess of the Happy Valley set.

Osborne deftly pieces together the tale of her great-grandmother using Idina's never-before-seen letters; the diaries of Idina's first husband, Euan Wallace; and stories from family members. Osborne follows Idina from the champagne breakfasts and thes dansants of lost generation England to the endless rounds of parties and foothills of Kenya's Aberdare mountains, to the wild abandon of her role in Kenya's disintegrating postwar upperclass life--her parade of lovers, a murdered husband, chaos everywhere--as her own madcap world of excess darkened and crumbled around her.

About the Author

Frances Osborne was born in London and studied philosophy and modern languages at Oxford University. She is the author of Lillas Feast. Her articles have appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the Daily Mail, and Vogue. She lives in London with her husband, a Member of Parliament, and their two children.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307270146
Author:
Osborne, Frances
Publisher:
Knopf
Subject:
Africa - General
Subject:
Women
Subject:
History
Subject:
General
Subject:
Europe - Great Britain - General
Subject:
Africa - East - Kenya
Subject:
Women -- England.
Subject:
Sackville, Idina
Subject:
Africa
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20090602
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
66 PHOTOGRAPHS IN TEXT
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.55 x 6.6 x 1.15 in 1.4 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » 20th Century
History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » General History
History and Social Science » World History » Africa
History and Social Science » World History » England » General
History and Social Science » World History » England » Historical Biographies

The Bolter Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780307270146 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

This illuminating biography of Idina Sackville fulfilled my expectations, exploring the desires, wildness, and sadness of a woman enticed by an age of jazz dancing and intoxicants, from heights of euphoric delight to depths of tragedy. Bolter includes letters, diaries, and beautiful photos, and is exquisitely written. Lovely. I almost feel like I knew her.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Osborne's lively narrative brings Lady Idina Sackville (an inspiration for Nancy Mitford's character the Bolter) boldly to life, with a black lapdog named Satan at her side and a cigarette in her hand. Osborne (Lilla's Feast) portrays a desperately lonely woman who shocked Edwardian high society with relentless affairs and drug-fueled orgies. Idina's story unfolds in an intimate tone thanks to the author, her great-granddaughter, who only accidentally discovered the kinship in her youth with the media serialization of James Fox's White Mischief. Osborne makes generous use of sources and private family photos to add immediacy and depth to the portrait of a woman most often remembered as an amoral five-time divorce: the author shows her hidden kindnesses at her carefully preserved Kenyan cattle ranch — a refuge from the later destructive Kenyan massacres. Still, Osborne unflinchingly exposes Idina's flaws — along with those of everyone else in the politely adulterous high society — while ably couching them in the context of the tumultuous times in which Idina resolved to find happiness in all the wrong places. The text, most lyrical when describing the landscapes around Idina's African residences, proves that an adventurous spirit continues to run in this fascinating family. 66 photos, (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , Published in England to unanimous acclaim (Frances Osborne has brilliantly captured not only one woman's life but an entire lost society--Amanda Foreman): the life of the beautiful, fearless Idina Sackville--descendant of one of England's oldest families--who was the cause of one of the great scandals of Edwardian England.

She was irresistible: slight, girlish, well dressed, and though not conventionally beautiful (she had a shotaway chin), she dazzled men and women alike. She made a habit of marrying (five times) whenever she fell in love and taking lovers whenever she wanted. But her notoriety was sealed when she left her husband and two young children in search of a new adventurous life and bolted to Kenya, where in the 1920s she became known as the high priestess of the Happy Valley set.

Osborne deftly pieces together the tale of her great-grandmother using Idina's never-before-seen letters; the diaries of Idina's first husband, Euan Wallace; and stories from family members. Osborne follows Idina from the champagne breakfasts and thes dansants of lost generation England to the endless rounds of parties and foothills of Kenya's Aberdare mountains, to the wild abandon of her role in Kenya's disintegrating postwar upperclass life--her parade of lovers, a murdered husband, chaos everywhere--as her own madcap world of excess darkened and crumbled around her.

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