The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess de Janze by Paul Spicer
|The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess de Janze by Paul Spicer|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The type of biography which reads like a good story with mystery thrown in. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: February 2011|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
Happy Valley in Kenya was an idyllic setting. The high altitude made for a benign climate and the farms were owned by colonial settlers who became the 'White Mischief' set of the nineteen forties. They farmed their estates, partied the night away and extra-marital affairs were the norm. Author Paul Spicer's mother was loosely involved with the set and he uses the connection to good effect to tell the story of the life of Alice, Countess de Janzé – a beguiling and volatile woman who always thought more of her animals than of her children.
The book is the story of her short and tumultuous life, from her beginnings in Buffalo New York as a member of the rich and powerful Silverthorne family, through her time in Paris when she met and married Count Frederic de Janzé and her life her Kenya, where she originally went because it improved her health and loved it so much that she made her life there – leaving her two daughters behind with relatives. Her marriage had never been strong and Alice was readily tempted into affairs with Josslyn Hay and others. Hay – later to be Lord Erroll – was murdered in his car in the early hours of the morning and the husband of his then mistress stood trial for his murder, but Spicer presents an impressive argument that the killer was in fact Alice.
The research is impressive, ranging as it does across three continents, several decades and a time of war. It's worn lightly though, with the book reading more like a good story with added mystery elements. I found it very hard to put down, despite the fact that I knew the basics of the story before I started reading. It's got everything that you need to tempt you to keep reading – French aristocrats, an American heiress, a louche society where anything seemed to be allowed and a mysterious death. It's salacious and if that's what appeals to you then you'll enjoy this book.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more about the 'White Mischief' set we can recommend The Bolter by Frances Osborne.
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