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Published in England to unanimous acclaim (“Frances Osborne has brilliantly captured not only one woman’s life but an entire lost society”—Amanda Foreman): the life of the beautiful, fearless Idina Sackville—descendant of one of England’s oldest families—who was the cause of one of the great scandals of Edwardian England.
She was irresistible: slight, girlish, well dressed, and though not conventionally beautiful (she had a “shotaway chin”), she dazzled men and women alike. She made a habit of marrying (five times) whenever she fell in love and taking lovers whenever she wanted. But her notoriety was sealed when she left her husband and two young children in search of a new adventurous life and bolted to Kenya, where in the 1920s she became known as the “high priestess of the Happy Valley set.”
Osborne deftly pieces together the tale of her great-grandmother using Idina’s never-before-seen letters; the diaries of Idina’s first husband, Euan Wallace; and stories from family members. Osborne follows Idina from the champagne breakfasts and the;s dansants of lost generation England to the “endless rounds of parties” and foothills of Kenya’s Aberdare mountains, to the wild abandon of her role in Kenya’s disintegrating postwar upperclass life—her parade of lovers, a murdered husband, chaos everywhere—as her own madcap world of excess darkened and crumbled around her.