Skip to main content

Review: The Bolter, by Frances Osborne


Pages: 344

Original date of publication: 2008

My edition: 2010 (Vitage)

Why I decided to read: discovered it browsing in Borders

How I acquired my copy: Borders gift card, November 2010

The subtitle of this book is “The story of Idina Sackville, who ran away to become the chief seductress of Kenya’s scandalous ‘Happy Valley’ set.” It’s true that Idina Sackville (a cousin of Vita Sackvile-West and the great-grandmother of the author) had a fascinating life; during her lifetime she “bolted” from five husbands and three children, settling down in Kenya. She wasn’t a particularly beautiful woman, but her sexual exploits were legendary, and she inspired characters for several books, namely the Bolter in Nancy Mitford’s novels.

The author, Frances Osborne, is a great-granddaughter of Idina; unfortunately, she imposes herself too much into Indina’s story. She also focuses too much on Idina’s sex life and not enough on Idina’s experiences in Kenya, which in itself is an interesting place and worthy of more than just a sketchy description. Because Idina is an ancestor of the author, I kept getting the feeling that she was trying to explain away or downplay Idina’s behavior. The salaciousness of Idina’s life eventually becomes tedious, as the reader begins to wonder what the point of it all was for Idina.

It seems as though Idina’s life was mostly comprised of social visits and the like, and the author gives monotonous details of what she did every day. And it’s not as though Idina ever saw the error of her ways or tried to redeem herself (except for perhaps trying to fix her fraught relationship with her elder son, David). There’s no moral to the story, no reason for me to feel any empathy with Idina, especially since she spent most of her life persuing what she thought was happiness and love. The Happy Valley set was made up of a bunch of unlikable characters, but the author tries to paint them in a rosy light. In addition, the author’s prose style is a bit choppy. I can see why she would want to write about Idina and her set, but maybe she was a bit too close to her subject matter to be really objective about it.

Comments

StuckInABook said…
My Mum gave me this a while ago... but it seems like I might want to relegate it a few places down the tbr pile! I thought it had something to do with the Bolter in Nancy Mitford's novels, but obviously not...

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…