Jane Ridley

Woman in Black

Ettie: The Intimate Life and Dauntless Spirit of Lady Desborough

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 472pp £25 order from our bookshop

This must have been a hard book to sell. Ettie Desborough is not exactly a household name. If her great friend Arthur Balfour was a whiff of scent on a lady’s pocket handkerchief, Ettie seems even more evanescent. A society hostess, a leading member of the Souls, an Edwardian grande dame – her story seems almost impossible to breathe into life, still less to conjure onto the stern shelves of Waterstones. In fact, as Richard Davenport-Hines demonstrates triumphantly in this superb biography, Ettie Desborough’s life is a compelling and moving story of love and loss as well as an important slice of social history, and it deserves to be widely read.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • He has 'raised his country’s international influence to unprecedented heights, while at the same time jailing hundr… ,
    • 'It is one of those nice linguistic ironies that English should have attempted to make sex respectable by clothing… ,
    • 'He was to my mind the father of the idea that journalism – yes, even journalism – can have a moral dimension to it… ,
    • RT : Feeling old, as exhumes a piece I wrote 37 years ago. But a joy to see Kathy O’S there too. Here’s why:… ,
    • 'Enough of his character remains just out of reach for Barnes to relish the challenge of imagining him.' Patrick M… ,
    • RT : I did a thing about the new Penguin Book Of Oulipo for this month’s Literary Review: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,