Writing was an interest that came unexpectedly into my life. I wonder what my sister Nancy would have made of the efforts of the 'nine-year-old' (the mental age beyond which she said I never developed) whose fist, according to her, was incapable of holding a pen. There would no doubt have been a torrent of scorn, but I think she would have liked some of the jokes sprinkled into my books. I am often asked where my sisters' and my urge to write comes from. cannot answer, unless it is from our grandfathers.
... One magazine commissioned an article of 1,000 words -- about what, I forget -- and I duly handed it in on time. The editor telephoned and after beating about the bush a bit, said, 'Could you add a few more words please?' I said I could, but that I had produced the required number. 'Yes, I know,' he said, with embarrassment, 'but they are all so short we have got a lot of space left.'
In a way, there's a lot of name-dropping, but then again, they're names like Duncan Grant, Ian Fleming, Uncle Harold (the Prime Minister), Cecil Beaton, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, George VI and Queen Mary, the Kennedys, other writers and painters, dozens of people I've never heard of, and even Adolf Hitler. Among many other things, she describes attending the inauguration (and funeral) of President Kennedy, and the coronation (after finding the necessary court dress in the attic and sending the Chatsworth state coach to London so they could arrive in style) of Queen Elizabeth. And personal stories, too, including her sisters Jessica and Diana seeing each other for the first and only time in almost 40 years. I'm sure that many of the stories were chosen because they were colorful, or telling, or just funny, and when she wants to make a political or cultural point, or complaint, she just does and moves on.
One of the charms of the book, for me, is that what the Duchess is writing about changes so quickly, sometimes after just a page or even a paragraph or two. There's one abrupt shift, about three-quarters of the way through, to a serious recounting of a serious family problem, and of regret over not knowing, at the time, what to do. But then we're suddenly back to an odd evening out with a hostess who has a silver plate in her head because she was once kicked by her horse (or was it a cow?). There's something very appealing about such an 'unreal' life recounted in a very down-to-earth style, and with grace.
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