Sunday, 7 June 2009

Sat up late last night to read The Bolter by Frances Osborne, which I finished in bed this morning. Very well written book - a real page-turner, but the content left me feeling sad and angry. The Bolter was my favourite character in Nancy Mitford's novels, so I was intrigued to read about the woman she was based on - Lady Idina Sackville - who married five times and had three children whose lives were mangled by her multiple relationships. Idina's daughter (who didn't see her mother from the age of 12 until she was in her twenties) was brought up by her sister, and her two sons, abandoned at the ages of 3 and 4, were brought up by a step-mother and forbidden to see their mother until well into adulthood. Idina went to Africa where she lived among the notorious 'Happy Valley' set.

These were intelligent, wealthy people with empty lives and no idea how to fill them. In anything is an indictment of the British class system, this book is it. The sex-games, suicides, attempted suicides, the murder (of Idina's husband the Earl of Erroll), the drink, drug abuse, divorces and serial adulteries and above all, the prolonged, casual, unnoticed neglect and emotional abuse of children brought up by constantly changing teams of nannies and governesses before being shunted off to boarding schools, often as young as four and definitely by seven, to suffer further abuses. Surely this is the root of how we treat children in this country?

Re-reading this I can hear echoes of my socialist, union card-carrying north eastern grandfather!

1 comment:

  1. Came across here from your other blog and am ejoying your book choices and comments. I had similar feelings when I read The Bolter (which i thought well written) I think these people lived(live?)in their own perpetual over- nurtured childhood, so of course can never, in truth, be parents themselves.
    In France recently - among much more diverse books - I re-read Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durell, having enjoyed it when I was younger. But although I still loved his language and his unique sense of place, now I am disturbed by the dated Anglo Centric undercurrents. It is a good involuntary study, though, of English attitudes towards the waning empire. Books give you different things at different times...