The Surprising Life of Constance Spry by Sue Shephard - review by Anne Sebba

Anne Sebba

An Odd Bunch

The Surprising Life of Constance Spry


Macmillan 256pp £18.99

Countless newlyweds in the 1960s, suddenly facing a need to cook for the first time in their lives, turned with relief to The Constance Spry Cookery Book as their kitchen bible. The 1956 bestseller reeked of respectability, reliability and refinement.

Yet Constance herself, until then known only as a florist, offered more controversial advice in person. ‘Just be natural and let the rules go to hell,’ she once wrote, referring to her unconventional and highly original ideas about flower decoration. She might just as well have been discussing her philosophy of life.

Although always known as Mrs Spry, she lived for more than thirty years with a man who was not her husband, H E Spry, known as Shav. The scandalous truth, had it ever emerged, would have cost them both their jobs and their reputations. In middle age she

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