The Bolter

The Bolter

Book - 2009
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She was irresistible. She inspired fiction, fantasy, legend, and art.

Some say she was "the Bolter" of Nancy Mitford's novel The Pursuit of Love. She "played" Iris Storm in Michael Arlen's celebrated novel about fashionable London's lost generation, The Green Hat , and Greta Garbo played her in A Woman of Affairs, the movie made from Arlen's book. She was painted by Orpen; photographed by Beaton; she was the model for Molyneaux's slinky wraparound dresses that became the look fo the age--the Jazz Age.

Though not conventionally beautiful (she had a "shot-away chin"), Idina Sackville dazzled men and women alike, and made a habit of marrying whenever she fell in love--five husbands in all and lovers without number.

Hers was the age of bolters, and Idina was the most celebrated of them all.

Her father was the eighth Earl De La Warr. In a society that valued the antiquity of families and their money, hers was as old as a British family could be (eight hundred years earlier they had followed William the Conqueror from Normandy and been given enough land to live on forever . . . another ancestor, Lord De La Warr, rescued the starving Jamestown colonists in 1610, became governor of Virginia, and gave his name to the state of Delaware). Her mother's money came from "trade"; Idina's maternal grandfather had employed more men (85,000) than the British army and built one third of the world's railroads.

Idina's first husband was a dazzling cavalry officer, one of the youngest, richest, and best-looking of the available bachelors, with "two million in cash." They had a seven-story pied-à-terre on Connaught Place overlooking Marble Arch and Hyde Park, as well as three estates in Scotland. Idina had everything in place for a magnificent life, until the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand caused the newlyweds' world--the world they'd assumed would last forever--to collapse in less than a year.

Like Mitford's Bolter, young Idina Sackville left her husband and children. But in truth it was her husband who wrecked their marriage, making Idina more a boltee than a bolter. Soon she found a lover of her own--the first of many--and plunged into a Jazz Age haze of morphine. She became a full-blown flapper, driving about London in her Hispano-Suiza, and pusing the boundaries of behavior to the breaking point. British society amy have adored eccentrics whose differences celebrated the values they cherished, but it did not embrace those who upset the order of things. And in 1918, just after the Armistice was signed, Idina Sackville bolted from her life in England and, setting out with her second husband, headed for Mombasa, in search of new adventure.

Frances Osborne deftly tells 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 thé dansants of lost-generation England to the foothills of Kenya's Aberdare moutnains and the wild abandon of her role in Kenya's disintegration postwar upper-class life. A parade of lovers, a murdered husband, chaos everywhere--as her madcap world of excess darkened and crumbled around her.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780307270146
Branch Call Number: 942.0856 OSBORNE
Characteristics: xi, 300 p. : ill., geneal. table ; 25 cm


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Jan 18, 2018

To be rich enough at that time was certainly a different world.

Nov 26, 2015

Very interesting, and as Jazpur mentioned, written with sympathy and understanding one can have a little insight into why the bolter was a bolter. Another interesting book to read about Kenya and the Happy Valley society is The Temptress by Paul Spicer

Sep 11, 2015

"The Bolter" was a horrible person, but the book is very readable.

Nov 30, 2013

Idina Sackville, the Bolter, she of the 5 divorces and innumerable lovers, who scandalised polite society in the 20's and 30's both in the UK and Kenya was cut off from her family and never mentioned. Her great granddaughter did not even know of her existence until she was an adult. Her escapades have provided inspiration for writers for several generations.I first came across her in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love.James Fox wrote White Mischief about the unsolved murder of erstwhile husband no3, The Earl of Erroll. Lauren Willig's more recent The Ashford Affair was the outcome of her reading Frances Osborne's The Bolter which tells the tragic story of her greatgrandmother's life with sympathy and understanding.Very well researched and accompanied by family photographs, her book is beyond sad; a generational history of loss and betrayal that gives a great insight into the events and upper class mores of late C19-mid C20.


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