Notable women – Recent Biography Picks

Those who became hooked on Simon Garfield’s edited editions of the Mass Observation diaries (We are at war, Private battles) may have been¬†especially fascinated by one of the protaganists, Maggie Joy Blunt. Now, permission has been given for publication — under her real name — of excerpts from the diaries she kept throughout her long life.¬†Other notable women featured this month include Bridget Keenan, Audrey Hepburn, The Queen and Helen Gurley Brown. Something for every taste!

Syndetics book coverA notable woman : the romantic journals of Jean Lucey Pratt / edited by Simon Garfield.
“In April, 1925, at the age of 15, Jean Lucey Pratt started a journal that she kept until just a few days before her death in 1986, producing more than a million words in 45 exercise books. What emerges is a portrait of a truly unique, spirited woman and writer. Never before has an account so fully, so honestly, and so vividly captured a single woman’s journey through the 20th century.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe ambassador’s wife’s tale / Julia Miles.
“Who really looks after British interests abroad? Behind the pomp of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, another powerful force is busily but discreetly propping up the image of UK Plc. For 28 years, Julia was a ‘diplomatic spouse’, juggling a growing family while supporting the demands of one of the great Offices of State. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying, she reveals the truth of the realities of life as a Ambassador’s wife, ranging from food shortages to terrorist incidents, to rubbing shoulders with the Queen, Mrs Thatcher and George Best.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverFull marks for trying : an unlikely journey from the Raj to the rag trade / Brigid Keenan.
“Brigid Keenan was never destined to lead a normal life. From her early beginnings–a colorful childhood in India brought to an abrupt end by Independence and Partition, then a return to dreary postwar England and on to a finishing school in Paris with daughters of presidents and princes–ordinary just wasn’t for her. When, as a ten-year-old, she overheard her mother describe her as “desperately plain,” she decided then and there that she had to rely on something different: glamour, eccentricity, character, a career–anything, so as not to end up at the bottom of the pile.” (Syndetics summary)

Two good ones you might have missed:

Syndetics book coverNancy Mitford : a biography / Selina Hastings.
“It’s hard to believe this is the first full biography of Nancy Mitford, that slightly tarnished “Bright Young Thing” who, with dear Gertie and Noel, Linda and Cole, Wallie and David, has racketed through so many reminiscences of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. By this time, her exploits are as familiar as the strains of “I’ll See You Again.” Considering the quality of the material, Mitford has been fortunate in her biographer.” (Kirkus review)

Syndetics book coverThe Queen’s speech : an intimate portrait of the Queen in her own words / Ingrid Seward.
“On 9 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest-serving monarch in British history. During her 63 years on the throne, few have got to know her well, but there is one body of work that sheds new light on her thoughts, personality and the issues that really concern her: the Queen’s own speeches. For many years, the Queen’s Christmas address was the most-watched programme on television on Christmas Day, and millions still tune in to hear what she has to say.” (Syndetics summary)

From other parts of the library:

Syndetics book coverEnter Helen : the invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the rise of the modern single woman / Brooke Hauser.
“[This book] chronicles the rise of a cultural icon who redefined what it means to be an American woman. In 1965, Helen Gurley Brown, author of the groundbreaking bestseller Sex and the Single Girl, took over an ailing Cosmopolitan and soon revamped it into one of the most bankable–and revolutionary–brands on the planet.” (Adapted from dust jacket)

Syndetics book coverAudrey and Givenchy : a fashion love affair / Cindy De La Hoz.
“The words “Audrey style” conjure images of ballet flats, little black dresses, bateau necklines, capri pants, and countless stunning fashions.Audrey Hepburn, the fashion icon, got her start in the early 1950s, just as a young French designer, Hubert de Givenchy, was beginning his legendary career. Together Audrey and Givenchy were a brilliant meeting of minds.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lonely city : adventures in the art of being alone / Olivia Laing.
“Writer and critic Laing searches for answers to the puzzles of her life in the experiences and creative endeavors of others. In The Trip to Echo Spring (2014), she explores the impact alcoholism has had on various American writers. In her newest imaginative and poignant quest she looks to visual art for illumination of the true nature of loneliness.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverLes Parisiennes : how the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation in the 1940’s / Anne Sebba.
“Sebba (That Woman), a former Reuters foreign correspondent, burrows into the lives of women in the City of Light during WWII to reveal their captivating and complicated stories. Rather than simply presenting the women as collaborators or resisters, Sebba shows the impossible choices they faced, which hardly seemed like choices at all. This is the book’s heart, and it pulsates from start to finish.”(Publisher Weekly)