The Bolter
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The Bolter : Idina Sackville - The Woman Who Scandalised 1920s Society and Became White Mischief's Infamous Seductress

  • Paperback
By (author) Frances Osborne

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On Friday 25th May, 1934, a forty-one-year-old woman walked into the lobby of Claridge's Hotel to meet the nineteen-year-old son whose face she did not know. Fifteen years earlier, as the First World War ended, Idina Sackville shocked high society by leaving his multimillionaire father to run off to Africa with a near penniless man. An inspiration for Nancy Mitford's character The Bolter, painted by William Orpen, and photographed by Cecil Beaton, Sackville went on to divorce a total of five times, yet died with a picture of her first love by her bed. Her struggle to reinvent her life with each new marriage left one husband murdered and branded her the 'high priestess' of White Mischief's bed-hopping Happy Valley in Kenya. Sackville's life was so scandalous that it was kept a secret from her great-granddaughter Frances Osborne. Now, Osborne tells the moving tale of betrayal and heartbreak behind Sackville's road to scandal and return, painting a dazzling portrait of high society in the early twentieth century.

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  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 126 x 194 x 26mm | 281.23g
  • 29 Dec 2008
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Virago Press Ltd
  • London
  • Section: 16, b/w pix
  • 1844084809
  • 9781844084807
  • 9,690

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Author Information

Born in London in 1969, Frances Osborne worked as a barrister, investment research analyst and journalist before writing her first book, Lilla's Feast. She is married to George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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Review quote

The Bolter is the real Idina's story told by her great-grand-daughter Frances Osborne. It whirls the reader through the London social scene during the First World War and the decadence of Kenya's Happy Valley via Idina's five marriages and innumerable love affairs. I loved it. Alice O'Keeffe, Amazon 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 Rich, title, witty, beguiling, Lady Idina Sackville had all the gifts, except, perhaps, judgement. Frances Osborne has written an enthralling account of a dazzling, troubled, life. Julian Fellowes ** 'On the literary pages, the wife of current shadow chancellor George Osborne, Frances, stepped into the limelight, as her new book, The Bolter, attracted the most reviews THE BOOKSELLER

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Review text

Sordid tales of aspiration and debauchery among the minor aristocracy of Britain.Osborne (Lilla's Feast: A Story of Food, Love, and War in the Orient, 2004) doesn't mean to malign her great-grandmother, the perpetrator of much bad behavior and the protagonist of this book. Indeed, by her account Idina Sackville earns points for not being a "husband stealer" and for being what one friend called "preposterously - and secretly - kind." Yet Idina, daughter of the philandering Earl De La Warr, took up with odd company early on. Her parents were unintended role models. Idina's mother, writes Osborne, married the earl to gain a title, and the earl, known as "Naughty Gilbert," married Idina's mother for her money. Eventually, Idina married rich, too - one of the richest men in Britain, in fact, "rich enough for his social ambitions to withstand marrying a girl from a scandalous family." She spent months designing a Xanadu featuring a "rabbit warren of dozens of nursery bedrooms and servants' rooms," but, alas, never got to see the pleasure dome completed, since the marriage turned out to be loveless and lost. Idina moved on, as she would four more times, ending up in British East Africa, where she made a hearty game of spouse-swapping and wound up figuring in stories that, among other things, would yield the aptly titled 1987 film White Mischief, as well as Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love (1945) and other period books - to say nothing of plenty of tabloid tales. Osborne, who writes pleasantly and carefully, hints that Idina was a pioneering feminist, but this portrait makes her appear to be self-absorbed and sad, living out a boozy, wandering and generally feckless life.Of interest to royal-watchers and certain strains of anglophiles, perhaps, but a sansculotte may wonder what the point is. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer reviews

Ok

I found it hard to relate to the characters in the book at the beginning, my connection to the main character grew stronger as the book progressed. The pictures were a welcomed addition to the book and helped me envision Idina's life. It is a tragic story told from a storyteller's point of view. The storyteller seems to be detached as if telling facts which I think contributed to the difficulty I experienced at the beginning. Overall a good readshow more
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