Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Bolter

I had been eagerly anticipating reading The Bolter ever since it was reviewed on The Daily Beast way back in the summer. It took forever for the library to even get the book in stock, and when it finally did I was a bit disappointed to find myself feeling like I had to slog my way through the book to get to the end.

Idina Sackville was a British aristocrat who lived during the early 20th century. Her life was full of scandal and intrigue. She married, divorced, and then remarried five husbands. Abandoning her two sons, she left England and spent most of her time living on a farm in Kenya. Imagine one of Fitzgerald's flappers going to live the life of a Hemingway character on safari and you'll start to get an idea of her. Idina's life was said to the the inspiration for the runaway mother character (a.k.a. "The Bolter") in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate- both of which I really liked.

I think I had hoped that The Bolter would read more like one of those Mitford novels. A jacket blurb even promised that it would combine "history with the stay-up-until-3am-to-finish-it urgency of a best seller". That prediction didn't quite come true for me. Although the facts of Idina's life are interesting, the author (a descendant of Idina) pretty much just presents them in a straightforward, basic way. Her attempts to explain Idina's motivations seemed to only scratch the surface of her personality. I'm sure this makes it a true, accurate biography, but it also made it a somewhat sluggish read.

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