[From a chapter about exiled Royal families of Europe living in London during World War 2...]
observations: Apparently the bride wore flat shoes so as not to tower over her husband. That’s the kind of detail you can rely on Matthew Sweet for.
After enjoying his Shepperton Babylon (one of my top 10 books of last year) so much, I would follow him just about anywhere, and this book turns out to be very rewarding. The subtitle is ‘the wartime secrets of London’s grand hotels’, and the chapter headings include Aliens, Reds, Subterraneans, Traitors and Majesties. The stories he tells are extraordinary – there must be material for a fistful of novels here: talking about his cinema book I said ‘it tells a history you can find nowhere else, and you feel that Matthew Sweet has had unique conversations with people who either were never asked before, or are now dead, or both’ – and this description applies equally to this book.
The story of King Peter II of Yugoslavia is excruciating and
|King Peter as a boy|
It is no exaggeration to say that every chapter of this book contains stories as fascinating and as strange as this one.
The Maimie Lygon mentioned above was a good friend of Evelyn Waugh’s, part of the family thought to have inspired the Flytes of Brideshead Revisited.
The rather dubious Stella in the book – whose conversation is ‘too filthy’ to be written down by MI5 agents - shares with Una, the doughty older lady from Christine Poulson’s Footfall, a liking for the Schiaparelli perfume, Shocking, a strong and iconic fragrance.
**Added later: Blog friend JS (long-time contributor) sent in this picture, taken in Marseilles, of a plaque marking the spot where young Peter's father was assassinated:
-she says 'preux' is an old-fashioned word meaning something like 'doughty'. ***