'She was "amused, cynical, ironic, loving, gay, ferocious, cold, ardent but never gentle". She was a whirlwind. She created around her the atmosphere of a Court at which her friends were either in disgrace or favour, a butt or a blessing.'
Elizabeth von Arnim was a bestselling novelist likened to Jane Austen for her witty and observational style. After one of her books had a cameo on Downton Abbey, she was rediscovered as 'the forgotten feminist who is flowering again'.
She may have been born on the shores of Sydney Harbour as the daughter of a shipping merchant, but after young Elizabeth travelled from Sydney to London in 1869 she discovered society and society discovered her. She made her court debut before Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace and was pursued by the Prussian count Henning August von Armnin-Shlagenthin, whom she married even though she was full of doubt. The very formal world of European aristocracy became her life and the subject for her early novels that soon turned her into a literary sensation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Despite having five children, her marriage to the count was never happy. Nor was a second marriage to Bertrand Russell's brother, but by then she had made her way into the great literary, society and intellectual circles of London and Europe. She mixed widely, bringing into her orbit Nancy Astor and Lady Mary Cunard as well as her cousin Katherine Mansfield and other writers such as E.M. Forster and H.G. Wells, with whom she had a tempestuous affair.
Elizabeth von Armin was an extraordinary woman who lived an exceptional life during exciting, glamorous and changing times. She is brought to rich and vivid life by Joyce Morgan in this fascinating and beautifully written biography that spans a shifting world that started with the innocence of Victorian Sydney and finished with the march of Hitler through Europe.