Beginning in 1956 with the publication of A Legacy, Sybille Bedford has narrated - in fiction and non-fiction - what has been by turns her sensuous, harrowing, altogether remarkable life. In this magnificent memoir, she moves from Berlin during the Great War to the artists' set on the Côte d'Azur of the 1920s, through lovers, mentors, seducers and friends, and from genteel yet shabby poverty to relative comfort in London's Chelsea. Whether evoking the simple sumptuousness of a home-cooked meal or tracing the heart-rending outline of an intimate betrayal, she offers spellbinding reflections on how history imprints itself on private lives.
This passionate memoir reflects a sharp, incisive interiority and is written in a style that's even more lyrical and engaging than the style that propelled Bedford into the literary world with her first book, Sudden View, in 1953. Mentored by Aldous Huxley (she later wrote his definitive biography), raised in a Europe struggling to retain and later regain its soul, Bedford (b. 1911) crossed paths with many compelling characters in the years during, between and after the world wars, including a few close to Hitler and to the Fascists. Her detailed autobiography is also a memoir of the evolution of an author, and Bedford writes as movingly of 9/11 as she does of the occupation and liberation of Europe. Bedford counters the perils of political darkness with the first flushes of romantic passions, and, throughout, describes the landscape of her world: her youth in the countrysides of Europe, and her adulthood in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Florence and New York. Her eye and ear for the ever-changing and challenging world in which she has lived moves her seamlessly from one era to the next. It's heady stuff, no less so for Bedford's ruminative style, her introspection and insight.