Lady in Waiting : ''My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown''.

It seems particularly apt that Anne Coke Tennant, Baroness Glenconner, was born into ancient  British family whose crest is an ostrich swallowing an iron horseshoe, symbolizing, as he puts it ''our ability to digest anything.''

Readers of her sometimes amusing, sometimes appalling, sometimes affecting, sometimes clueless memoir will learn that she was a perfect ostrich.

Burying her head in the sand may well have been the only way to endure a 54-year marriage to her terrifyingly eccentric, deeply profligate husband, who would reward her loyalty by disinheriting her, and to remain in the good graces of her notoriously difficult, consummately petulant childhood friend Princess Margaret, whom she served for nearly three decades as a lady-in-waiting.

Those expecting the sort of dishy gossip Craig Brown served up in ''99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret'' or the diva turns wrought by Helena Bonham Carter in Season 3 of ''The Crown'' will find  ''Lady in Waiting'' more of a challenge.

The pleasures of Glenconner's tales must be wielded out of her sturdy of occasionally cliched prose: revelations of the strange juxtaposition of an unexpectedly upstairs-downstairs aristocratic life.

Born at Holkham, the fifth-largest estate in England [but unable, because of her sex, to inherit it], young Anne loved riffling through the pages her grandfather's proudest possession, Leonardo 's Codex Leicester, and making dens in the attic room from old master's ''deemed to touche for the walls of the state rooms.''

But just a few years later, she could be found lining up with her sponge bag to use the loo at succession of seedy hotels for traveling salesmen as she set about the hawking mugs and plates from the pottery her mother her mother had established to help keep Holkham afloat.

While on a similar mission in America via Greyhound bus, she was abruptly summoned home to be maid of honor at coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

For days on end, every step of the ceremony was choreographed and rehearsed at the West Minister Abbey, but all night the apprentice courtier traded its splendor for her uncle's flat, where she slept on a mattress on the floor.

And do-this-up-and-down life proceeded.

Glenconner's travels on Margaret's overseas tours yield some of the book's best anecdotes. Nancy Reagan and Imelda Marcos receive concise dissing.

The World Students Society thanks Book Review author : Alida Becker.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!