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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Queen Bees by Siân Evans

(Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent)

Queen Bees tells the story of six great society hostesses during the inter-war years; Lady Astor, Lady Colefax, Lady Londonderry, Lady Curnard, Laura Corrigan and Mrs Ronnie Grenville. These driven, ambitious women had an immense effect on the inter-war era on politics, culture and even royalty.  Apparently, Maud Cunard and Sibyl Colefax actually fostered the relationship between Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson.

Surprisingly, most of these women came from inauspicious backgrounds. Mrs Grenville was the illegitimate daughter of a millionaire and brought up in an Edinburgh lodging house, for example. Laura Mae Corrigan was born in rural poverty in the American Midwest and she allegedly worked as a telephone operator when she met the fabulously wealthy James Corrigan.  It was love at first sight, so she quickly divorced her respectable husband, a doctor.

These ladies could have stayed 'ladies of leisure' with their rich husbands, but they were so busy that it was sometimes tiring to just read about their activities.  Two of them even had successful careers late in life - Lady Astor and Lady Colefax (interior design).  Lady Astor had lots of children as well as her political life and her famous society functions.

This is a fascinating book full of anecdotes.  I especially like Lady Astor's telling a crowd that she 'would rather commit adultery than have a glass of beer!' Someone replied: 'Who wouldn't?'

I also liked reading about this Downton Abbey-like world of still-Edwardian luxury and style.  These ladies lived in large town and country houses with several servants, 'gleaming silver', and superb dining. This book could be another excellent mini-series, or, at least a documentary!

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

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