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The Bolterby Frances Osborne
Synopses & Reviews
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 agethe 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 lovefive 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 worldthe world theyd assumed would last foreverto 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 ownthe first of manyand 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 everywhereas her madcap world of excess darkened and crumbled around her.
From the Hardcover edition.
Jazz Age celebrity 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. Brilliant and utterly divine.--Michael Korda, "The Daily Beast."
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
An O, The Oprah Magazine #1 Terrific Read
In an age of bolters—women who broke the rules and fled their marriages—Idina Sackville was the most celebrated of them all. Her relentless affairs, wild sex parties, and brazen flaunting of convention shocked high society and inspired countless writers and artists, from Nancy Mitford to Greta Garbo. But Idina’s compelling charm masked the pain of betrayal and heartbreak.
Now Frances Osborne explores the life of Idina, her enigmatic great-grandmother, using letters, diaries, and family legend, following her from Edwardian London to the hills of Kenya, where she reigned over the scandalous antics of the “Happy Valley Set.” Dazzlingly chic yet warmly intimate, The Bolter is a fascinating look at a woman whose energy still burns bright almost a century later.
About the Author
Frances Osborne was born in London and studied philosophy and modern languages at Oxford University. She is the author of Lilla’s 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.
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