19 November 2020, The Tablet

Much passion spent

Much passion spent

Sybille Bedford: An Appetite for Life
(CHATTO & WINDUS, 432 PP, £25)
Tablet bookshop price £22.50 • tel 020 7799 4064

“I wish I’d written more books and spent less time being in love,” Sybille Bedford told an interviewer. Certainly, Bedford’s stormy erotic relationships with women were time-consuming. Just keeping up with them is apt to make the reader of this rivetingly entertaining biography reach for a stiff drink. Or maybe a glass of champagne, for Bedford was the most delicious, obsessive chronicler of the sensual pleasures of food and wine.

This is not just an account of a single life but of a whole world – the cosmopolitan, socially cross-referencing, peripatetic, ­multilingual, intellectual circles of mid-­twentieth-century Europe. There is good living in interesting and unusual places, parties, conversation, creativity, intellectual challenge and eye-poppingly flexible attitudes towards monogamy. It’s no wonder that Bedford’s first book, about Mexico, wasn’t published until she was in her early forties: there just wasn’t the time.

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