Duffy’s recommended lockdown read!

She was Australian born, an international bestselling author and a member of the glamorous literary, intellectual and society salons of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century London and EuropeShe 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 may have been born on the shores of Sydney Harbour, but it was in Victorian London that she discovered society and society discovered her. She made her Court debut before Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace, was pursued by a Prussian count and married into the formal world of the European aristocracy. It was the novels she wrote about that life that turned her into a literary sensation on both sides of the Atlantic and had her likened to Jane Austen.

Her marriage to the count produced five children but little happiness. Her second marriage to Bertrand Russell’s brother was a disaster. But by then she had captivated the great literary and intellectual circles of London and Europe. She brought into her orbit the likes of Nancy Astor, Lady Maud Cunard, her cousin Katherine Mansfield and other writers such as E.M. Forster, Somerset Maugham and H.G. Wells, with whom it was said she had a tempestuous affair.

Elizabeth von Arnim was an extraordinary woman who lived during glamorous, exciting and changing times that spanned the innocence of Victorian Sydney and finished with the march of Hitler through Europe. Joyce Morgan brings her to vivid and spellbinding life.

The Countess From Kirribilli is published by Allen & Unwin available from Booktopia and all good bookstores

Duffy’s thoughts on The Countess From Kirribilli

Being a Kirribilli local, I was extremely keen to find out not only about Elizabeth von Arnim, but the history of the suburb I live in and adore.

Joyce Morgan has clearly spent an extensive amount of time researching the life of Elizabeth and its tiny details, not only of the countess but also her family, which brings an immense amount of colour, character and vibrancy to this unique and full life. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Elizabeth’s early life and her rich, if eccentric family. I likened them to the Durrell’s in lots of respects. A free spirit and a comfortable financial position really can bring about grand adventure.

Even though Elizabeth spent only a brief time in Kirribilli, I thoroughly enjoyed the description of Victorian London and learning about her salacious and at times sad and lonely relationships.

Elizabeth von Arnim is the very definition of a woman in a man’s world. One that truly lived a full and colourful life made all the more intriguing by possessing incredible literary talent.

If you love biographies, the history of Sydney, and tales of strong, articulate women, then you can’t go past The Countess From Kirribilli. A thoroughly enjoyable read!