This edition does not include illustrations.
An authoritative and entertaining account by one of our most talented writers of the courageous and unusual women who have been the backbone of the British Empire and foreign service.
‘English ambassadresses are usually on the dotty side and leaving their embassies drives them completely off their rockers’ – Nancy Mitford
From the first exploratory expeditions into foreign lands, through the heyday of the British Empire and still today, the foreign service has been shaped and run behind the scenes by the wives of ambassadors and minor civil servants. Accompanying their spouses in the most extraordinary, tough, sometimes terrifying circumstances, they have struggled to bring their civilization with them. Their stories – from ambassadresses downwards – never before told, are a feast of eccentricity, genuine hardship and genuine heroism, and make for a hilarious, compelling and fascinating book.
Her last book, A Trip to the Light Fantastic, received extraordinarily good reviews:
‘The most ambitiously imaginative sort of travel writing’
- Patrick Skene Catling
‘Magic is at the heart of Hickman’s narrative. Her characters would not seem out of place in the oeuvre of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende’
- Sunday Times
‘Mexico will not have been portrayed more vividly since Graham Greene’s The Lawless Roads… Enchanting’
- Geoffrey Moorhouse, Daily Telegraph
About the author
Katie Hickman was brought up in Europe, the Far East and South America, and educated at Oxford University. She has been travelling and writing ever since.
For those who enjoy reading about travel and life abroad, this enormously entertaining social history of the female side of diplomatic life is a must. The author, herself the daughter of a diplomat, closely observed her mother's 28 years on the road. Drawing on published memoirs, letters, diaries, interviews and personal reminiscences, Hickman's (A Trip to the Light Fantastic: Travels with a Mexican Circus) written account ranges from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Organizing her anecdotes around various aspects of the diplomatic life, such as "getting there," "private lives," and "hardships," rather than by time period, the author contrasts the experiences of individual women (although it is occasionally difficult to keep track of who's who). When her husband was posted to Teheran in 1849, Mary Sheil discovered that she was virtually confined to the luxurious but isolated British residence. On the other hand, Harriet Granville, whose husband was posted to Paris in the 1820s, found herself devoting most of her time to diplomatic ceremonies. Many of the women had to cope with either unfamiliar food or a severe lack of food. Miss Tully (first name unknown) left letters describing the effects of pestilence and famine on her life in 1784 Tripoli. Often women were placed in danger by their position, for example Veronica Atkinson, whose family was caught up in the Romanian Revolution of 1989. Feelings of homesickness and other difficulties were common, yet Hickman presents most of the wives as enjoying adventurous lives that she describes as "quite exciting really." Photos.