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Lilla's Feast

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Sensual family memoir of a modern woman in the last 100 years, spanning three continents and three husbands.

About the Author

Frances Osborne worked as a barrister, a banker and then a journalist before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in London and Cheshire with her husband and two young children. his is her first book.


Osborne is amazed by her great-grandmother Lilla, whose remarkable life took her from her birth in 1882 in Chefoo, China, to a "not quite prudent" marriage in India, a WWII Japanese internment camp and the end of her life in an England that didn't want her. Regardless of her surroundings, Lilla created a cozy home for her family, excelling in culinary delights. Osborne, who was 13 when Lilla died at 100, wanted to learn more about the mysteries of her great-grandmother's life: "There was an allusion to a `real father,' who had shot himself.... [T]here was the unheard-of child whom, in a whispered confession, she said she had made herself miscarry." Osborne's research is comprehensive: she draws on family letters, interviews with former colonialists and camp prisoners, historical references and even a recipe book Lilla wrote while interned, and she seamlessly entwines historical events into the narrative. But what stops this biography from being a Far East Out of Africa is the clunky writing. Osborne injects clich?d drama into situations and frequently uses sentence fragments to jarring effect. Furthermore, her conjecture and awkward language weaken the memoir's authoritativeness. Lilla, though, is a captivating character; her story rises above the writing's mediocrity. Photos, line drawings. Agent, Claire Paterson. (Oct.) Forecast: Ballantine will target literary and cooking communities; it's possible they'll embrace this. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Passionately written and compelling, Frances Osborne's impressive debut is a wonderful read. The extraordinary life of this ordinary woman is a tumultuous feast of the senses" -- Santa Montefiore
"Lilla's Feast is a wonderful, inspiring book, part page-turner, part history of the British Empire in the Far East, Frances Osborne perfectly captures the stories of a lost generation of women" -- Amanda Foreman
"Osborne tells the story of her great-granny's life with page-turning brio" * Sunday Telegraph *
"A wonderfully evocative, vivid, distilled book" * Tatler *
"Powerfully imagined... Aromas of the spicy dishes Lilla learned to cook during her years in the Far East seem to cling to these pages, infusing the narrative with exoticism" * The Times *

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