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.
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 divorcee: 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) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Lady Idina Sackville must be among the last of the titled and scandalous Brits of the post-World War I era whose lives have not yet been recorded in biography. Osborne, her great-granddaughter, has filled that small gap with this gossipy story, which takes its name from a sad minor character that novelist Nancy Mitford is said to have modeled on Idina in The Pursuit of Love. The Mitford connection is pretty much it for a claim to fame. In 1919 Idina deserted a fabulously wealthy husband and two toddlers to marry a lover and buy a farm in her beloved Kenya, where she turned up again (and usually built another house) with each of her subsequent three husbands. Osborne recounts with gusto the byzantine sexploits of Idina, her husbands, and their many houseguests. She claims that Idina also served as the model for the vamp heroine of Michael Arlen's sensational 1920s best seller The Green Hat. Verdict This is not a work of great depth; typical of the haphazard construction of the book, Osborne forgets to tell us if either Mitford or Arlen actually knew Idina. Still, those who enjoy stories (fiction or nonfiction) of the past's oversexed and idle rich (and there are lots of these readers) will love this book.-Stewart Desmond, New York City Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
"Engrossing and beautifully written. . . . [An] affecting story."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"If notorious relatives make for the best dinner-party
anecdotes, then Frances Osborne should be able to dine out for
decades.... Enthralling." --The Plain Dealer "Idina
Sackville . . . could have stepped out of an Evelyn Waugh satire
about the bright young things who partied away their days in the
'20s and '30s, and later crashed and burned. . . . Frances Osborne
. . . conjure[s] a vanished world with novelistic detail and
flair." --The New York Times "An engaging book, drawing a
revealing portrait of a remarkable woman and adding humanity to her
'scandalous' life. . . . Ms. Osborne has succeeded in her stated
aim, to write a book that 'has in a way brought Idina back to
life.' And what a life it was." --The Wall Street Journal
"Vibrant. . . . Osborne connects vast expanses of the dots that
formed Idina's reality: the gender inequalities in Edwardian
England, the economic imperatives of colonialism, the mores of
upper-class adultery, the differences between Idina's aristocratic
father . . . and her merely wealthy mother." --Newsday
"Intelligent, moving, and packed with exquisite detail."
--Providence Journal "[Idina Sackville's] life story, speckled with
the names of the rich and famous, is a miniature history lesson,
bringing into sharp focus both world wars, the Jazz Age, and the
colonization of Kenya. . . . Sackville's passion lights up the
page." --Entertainment Weekly "[A] rumbustious and harrowing
biography that takes us from London to Newport to Kenya. . . . A
feast for the Anglophile." --The New York Times Book Review
"Brilliant and utterly divine. . . . A breath of fresh air from a vanished world." --The Daily Beast "The Bolter is a biographical treat." --Good Housekeeping "Fascinating. . . . Paint[s] an interesting picture of Edwardian England, its social mores and rigors giving way to the wildness of pre-depression Europe." --Minneapolis Star Tribune "An engaging, definitive final look back at those naughty people who, between the wars, took their bad behavior off to Kenya and whose upper-class delinquency became gilded with unjustified glamour." --Financial Times "A sympathetic but evenhanded portrait of a woman driven by needs and desires even she didn't understand." --The Columbus Dispatch "Truly interesting. Osborne paints an enthralling portrait of upper class English life just before, during and immediately after the Great War. Frivolous, rich, sexy [and] achingly fashionable." --The Observer (London)
"Even today Lady Idina Sackville could get tongues wagging. . . . A lively portrait of the UK-born troublemaker, a woman who took countless lovers, raised hell in England and Africa, inspired novels by Nancy Mitford and carried around a dog she named Satan. . . . Through [Idina's] story, we not only get a sexy and difficult-to-put-down read, we also get a good look at the shadow side of this prim and proper era and the real women who defied convention to live in it."--Jessa Crispin, "Books We Like," NPR
"A racy romp underpinned by some impressive research." --The Sunday Telegraph (London)
"Passionate and headstrong, Lady Idina was determined to be free even if the cost was scandal and ruin. Frances Osborne has brilliantly captured not only one woman's life but an entire lost society." --Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire "Told very much like a novel, The Bolter introduces readers to a world where every rule is broken and creating a scene is the latest fashion accessory." --The Daily Texan "Not only is it a beautifully written, intriguing chronicle of a frenetic, privileged, and profoundly sad life, it catches a social group and the mad-cap lives they led--so luxurious, so wasted. . . . Superb." --Barbara Goldsmith, author of Obsessive Genius and Little Gloria. . . Happy at Last "Drawing on family letters, Osborne's portrait creates sympathy not for Idina's reckless behavior but for the emotional emptiness that provoked her far-flung, self defeating yet undeniably glamorous search for love." --More "Fascinating. . . . Beautifully written. . . . Frances Osborne brings the decadence of Britain's dying aristocracy vividly to life in this story of scandal and heartbreak."--Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin and Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar "Sex, money, glamour, and scandal make Idina Sackville's story hard to put down. What brings that story to life is the courage of an incorrigibly stylish survivor. Searching for the woman behind the legend, Osborne [gives us] a heroine impossible to resist." --Frances Kiernan, author of The Last Mrs. Astor and Seeing Mary Plain: A life of Mary McCarthy