Book Party at the British Ambassador’s Residence
June 21, 2012 by Jada.Bradley
On June 18th, 2012, Sir Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to the U.S., hosted a book party, in author and family friend Frances Osborne‘s honor, at the official British ambassador’s residence, in Washington DC. Frances Osborne’s husband is Peter Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, and the Westmacott and Osborne families are friends.
In Westmacott’s opening remarks, he noted that it was a much more pleasant speaking engagement than the earlier one he had that day, which involved explaining his country’s actions during the War of 1812.
He also opined that Osborne’s latest book, Park Lane, may not be as racy as her previous book, The Bolter, in which Osborne chronicled the life of a 20th century ancestor who scandalized society by leaving her family to divorce numerous times and take many lovers.
Upon taking the podium, Osborne gently corrected the ambassador. She noted that the changing roles of women, new social mores, and the desire to provide “comfort” for soldiers meant that her latest definitely has some racy moments.
Park Lane is a house that was mentioned in Osborne’s non-fiction book The Bolter. The book centers on two lives: one of a working class woman that tells a fiction (lying to her family by saying she is a highly paid secretary when she is actually a maid at Park Lane). The second is a disillusioned debutante whose curiosity and interest in militant suffragettes takes her places she might never have imagined. Osborne started thinking about writing the fictional Park Lane while she was researching The Bolter.
In her remarks, Osborne said, “It has been fun to write a book in what we now think of as the “Downton Abbey” era.” The book’s main characters have very different lives and although they live very far apart [socially], World War I sets them on a path to collision.
Later when I asked her why she thought American audiences were so interested in what she called ‘the Downton Abbey era,’ she said, “It is beautiful and stylishly done; it makes you want to be there. There is also the drama. It was all about to end and it’s a last glimpse at the old-fashioned way of living.”
While the book examines a very different time, the event itself was anything but old-fashioned: some of the books that Politics and Prose was on hand to sell were sold using an iPad that had an attachment to take credit cards.
Rupert Cornwell, former British Bureau Chief for The Independent, was also there and we discussed how much Word War I changed the social hierarchy in England. For those looking for a nonfiction account of these changes, he recommended The Strange Death of Liberal England, written by George Dangerfield in 1935.
About The Author:
Jada Bradley (jadabradley.com) is a Washington DC-based writer and educator who enjoys telling stories in formal and informal ways. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and online. She holds Masters in Spanish Translation and is a great supporter of creative expression in the various forms it takes. She also writes about local cultural events as D.C. Cultural Events Examiner for Examiner.com. Her blog, In Other Words, can be found at inotherwordz.blogspot.com.