2010: 6. The Bolter

“On Friday, 25 May 1934, the forty-one-year-old Idina Sackville stepped into Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair shortly before a quarter to one.”

The Bolter, Frances Osborne

     This is a non-fiction account of Idina Sackville, a famous 1930’s British society beauty who served as the model for Nancy Mitford’s “Bolter” - which is to say, she famously left her wealthy husband and two young sons, and ran off with (and married - she was a great one for getting married) a series of men.  Or as the cover puts it “the story of the wild, beautiful, fearless Idina Sackville, descendant of one of England’s oldest families, who went off to Kenya in search of adventure and became known as the high priestess of the scandalous “Happy Valley Set.””  The book is written by the great-granddaughter who never knew her (or even her grandfather, who died in the Second World War), and only learned of her existence as an adult. She became fascinated by this mysterious ancestor - both by her scandalous history and by the emotional impact her desertion had on her own family.  

      It’s a pretty good book, because Idina is a very interesting character.  The recounting of Idina’s various adventures is very well done and, since I’m always interested in the misdeeds of the British upper crust, was right up my alley.  I think that it would have been a fantastic book if she could have done more on the second point - really probed what Idina’s choices meant on a personal level to her and to her family, but I also understand that the author did her best.  This is the time of stiff upper lips, and all of the main players were gone before Osborne was even born, so the sort of real insight that makes a good memoir into a great one is probably not possible.  Still, I thought something was a little lacking (or maybe I just wanted something different from what Osborne even wanted to write).

Date/Place Completed: January 2010, D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017