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Stephen Taylor grew up in South Africa and now works for The Times of London

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I found this biography by searching the library catalogue for 'French Revolution'; I have never heard of Lady Anne Barnard nee Lindsay, and she apparently hobnobbed with the big names in the eighteenth century, which is one of my pet historical eras. She was apparently even friends with Prinny's secret first wife, Maria 'Fitz' Fitzherbert and I've definitely read about her life!

Anyway, the blurb makes Lady Anne sound fascinating, a sort of eccentric bluestocking professional spinster who wrote songs and charmed the ton, but this biography is more like the lead character in a novel that the author really, really wants the reader to love, but who never lives up to the promise. All adjective, no action; all tell, no show. The woman wrote thousands of letters, travel diaries and eventually her own memoirs, but her supposed wit is never really in evidence. What did she do? Refuse to marry perfectly decent men who for some reason remained devoted and even left all their money to her (even if she never saw any), and wasted years of her life on a Georgian fuck boy who was probably in love with his best friend. After all that, I sort of wanted her to make a name for herself as a middle-aged novelist who moves in with her 'very dear friend' and cocks a final snook at society's expectations - but no. She married a toyboy, used her connections to finagle him into a post overseas, and set sail to help colonise South Africa. Apparently Anne is better known there, for her epic eighteenth century travelogues of the country. They didn't have children of their own, because Anne was in her forties when they married, but he fathered various illegitimate offspring - one with a slave while married to Anne! - and she later helped to raise them. She was either ahead of her time or a complete sap - the young Mr Barnard did have fine teeth, which is obviously why she was so eager to forgive him.

I did like the young Anne, with her bohemian sense of fashion, usually handmade, and 'frank, vulgar sort of half-Scotch' appraisal of society. When most women were getting married in their teens, Anne held off and her widowed mother allowed her the choice - but her indecision and teasing was bit much for even for 250 years ago. She 'attracted innumerable admirers, more than twenty serious suitors and eleven more proposals' after receiving her first offer at sixteen! As the adverts say, what was her secret? I still can't tell after reading this biography.
… (mere)
AdonisGuilfoyle | 3 andre anmeldelser | Jul 11, 2024 |
I enjoy ship wrecj tales, partly for what they reveal about people in extreme situations, and also for their exoticism.
Very well researched
cspiwak | 6 andre anmeldelser | Mar 6, 2024 |
At the height of Britain’s maritime power, the French managed to commit an unbelievable amount of damage to the Brits traveling the Indian Ocean to reach British Indian colonies from the French base of Mauritious. Unfortunately the “clash” didn’t occur until well into the second half. There wasn’t enough material it seems so the author gave an inordinate amount of background about Brits in India—in a very gossipy way. The French were almost completely missing from the first half making me wonder if I were only reading about storms (hurricanes did in many ships) and not clashes. The gossipy nature of the book tracked so many people it was a very difficult audiobook to follow. Once I accepted I couldn’t follow on every person’s story, I focused on the highlights. Now that it’s called Mauritius instead of Isle de France, I’ll bet you can guess who won!… (mere)
KarenMonsen | 6 andre anmeldelser | Jul 17, 2022 |
oirm42 | 2 andre anmeldelser | May 25, 2018 |



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