Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Bolter - Remembering Kenya

In Nancy Mitford's novels, the narrator's mother is an elusive character, the Bolter, who dashes around the world, collecting husbands; together with the Hun-hating, entrenching tool-wielding Uncle Matthew, the Bolter is one of the most memorable and funniest characters. It turns out she was inspired by Idina Sackville, a five-time divorced eccentric who had fallen in love with Kenya - along with too many younger men she was keen on marrying.

In The Bolter, just released in the USA, her great-granddaughter Frances Osborne tells the story of her life. Not only does it portray a unique woman, but it also explores the mores of Edwardian London, the craziness of 1920's England, the impact of World War One, and the methods of English colonialism in East Africa. In Kenya, she was friends with the Dane Karen Blixen, who later wrote Out of Africa - they even shared a lover, Denys Finch Hatton.
Colonialism in Kenya was meant to be based on railroads - in the early 1980's I took the train from Nairobi to Naivasha with my family (see pic - I'm on the right). This fascinating book brought back many memories of Kenya where I lived as a child. Some of Osborne's lyrical description of Kenya's landscapes and wildlife stirred deep emotions in me, making me long for my very own paradise lost.

And if your paradise is all things books, do check out dear Gabbi's fabulous post on the topic. This must-see post features great pictures, an amazing visit to the Los Angeles Public Library, and, yes, an award for me...
I love reading, and I love Gabbi!

20 comments:

Deidra said...

Sounds fascinating! Both the book, and your childhood memories!

Congrats on the award!

laughingwolf said...

way to go! :)

Mary-Laure said...

DEIDRA - yes. I was lucky to have a really amazing childhood.

Spangler Cummings said...

Your blog is thrilling me! I can't wait to drink Mexican Coca Cola, read about the "Bolter," harvest some public fruit, go the the flea market on Ocean Blvd., explore twitter...and on and on and on...

Dionne said...

Thanks for the book suggestion - I had never heard of it before.

Woo hoo on the award! YeaH!

Gabbi said...

Thank you so much Mary-Laure! Your blog never ceases to inspire me.

'The Bolter' sounds like such a good read also, I'm going to have to track it down. And your memories of Kenya sound lovely, what an amazing childhood you must've had. You know, that photograph in your sidebar has always been a favorite of mine. I love the way your reflection shows.

Wishing you a lovely weekend!xo

Mary-Laure said...

SPANGLER - oh you're making me blush!

GABBI - oh I am a huge fan of your blog too. You're so tasteful and smart!

A World in a PAN said...

You're a great read indeed! I love reading your posts and learning about characters, authors, I would have never discovered without you.

jean-louis said...

Hier au soir nous avions a diner des amis americains, un pasteur et son epouse, qui ont vecu a...Karen! au pied de N'Gong hill ou j'ai moi meme travaille quand nous vivions au Kenya. Imagine les souvenirs que nous avons pu evoquer: OUT OF AFRICA, bien sur! Dad

Sammi said...

Awesome memories to have :o)

the book sounds fascinating.

Mary-Laure said...

WORLD IN A PAN - so many authors I would not have discovered without you.

JL - je crois que la photo de moi a cheval dans ce post a ete prise a Karen justement.

Anonymous said...

wow....seems like idina aka the bolter was quite the character...should get around to reading the book about her.
(but i have always had a preference more for the muse..for example..nancy cunnard...)..

nancyxx

ps happy friday!

d. moll, l.ac. said...

LOL The Bolter what a slice of life!

Mary-Laure said...

NANCY - yes I find muses fascinating too - would love to know more about Nancy Cunnard (were you named after her?)
But more generally I am fascinated by women who went beyond the roles that their era wanted to impose on them, from Elizabeth I to the Bolter...

D. MOLL - slice of life? More like the entire pie...

edi retnati said...

I'm enjoy to visit your blog.... And I'll always keep yours on my mind....... Can I add your blog into my blogroll??? After that, maybe you don't mind to add me too...

Mary-Laure said...

EDI - of course you can add me to your blogroll, I'd love that! I'll check out yours too.

Charlotte. said...

Those are some fantastic childhood photos! And that book sounds like a very very interesting read. Great post! ^_^.

Arlene said...

The Bolter is on my TBR list. Saw a review of it and also knew of the connection between her and Blixen. Thanks for the reminder.

Mary-Laure said...

ARLENE - I hope you'll share your impressions once you've read it!

Jill said...

thanks for the tip on the book. iv'e been looking for something new to read and this looks like just my thing!