A Curious Friendship
The winter of 1924: Edith Olivier, alone for the first time at the age of fifty-one, thought her life had come to an end. For Rex Whistler, a nineteen-year-old art student, life was just beginning. Together, they embarked on an intimate and unlikely friendship that would transform their lives. Gradually Edith's world opened up and she became a writer. Her home, the Daye House, in a wooded corner of the Wilton estate, became a sanctuary for Whistler and the other brilliant and beautiful younger men of her circle: among them Siegfried Sassoon, Stephen Tennant, William Walton, John Betjeman, the Sitwells and Cecil Beaton - for whom she was 'all the muses'.
Set against a backdrop of the madcap parties of the 1920s, the sophistication of the 1930s and the drama and austerity of the Second World War and with an extraordinary cast of friends and acquaintances, Anna Thomasson brings to life, for the first time, the fascinating, and curious, friendship of a bluestocking and a bright young thing.
In the media
A Curious Friendship tells the story of two wonderfully unlikely friends and allies during the years between the wars. Moving, thoughtful, entertaining and magnificently researched, Thomasson's account of a bohemian art student and sharp-witted - sometimes comically snobbish - spinster is an outstandingly accomplished and original first biography from a writer for whom we can predict a very bright future.
Anna Thomasson has uncovered a remarkable story and brings these two fascinating but forgotten figures and their brilliant world vividly to light. An impressive debut.
A vibrant, admirably researched debut, tinkling with famous artistic names. A sort of non-fictional Brideshead Revisited, it's piquantly evocative of that lost aesthetic echelon of 1920s & 1930s society which dissolved amid the shadows of war; and the convention-defying friendship threaded through it is enthralling.
Anna Thomasson is a wonderful writer, with a pitch-perfect ear and a marvellous sense of style. I was also impressed by the thoroughness of her research. I really felt she had come to know her characters intimately with the result that one completely trusted her judgment every inch of the way. She has, too, a brilliant visual sense so that one really sees Rex's paintings and those magnificent houses.