Author: Anne Glenconner
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Hachette UK), November 2022; RRP: $32.99
Whatever Next? Lessons from an unexpected Life is an entertaining read written by a woman born into aristocracy and title in England. Anne Glenconner wrote another memoir called Lady in Waiting, which was extraordinarily successful, especially among Royal enthusiasts in the UK. She has also written two works of fiction. Born Lady Anne Coke, the daughter of the fifth Earl of Leicester, she later married Lord Glenconner, and it is mostly her erratic married life with him that is featured in this memoir.
The author recalls in 1953 her role as a maid of honour to the Late Queen Elizabeth II at the Coronation as ‘one of the most exciting days’ of her life. She went on to be a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret for over twenty years, a role and friendship that provided Glenconner the support she needed during her difficult marriage. During her years of service to Princess Margaret, she lived the life of elegance and diplomacy Anne had been raised to be part of.
Her husband, Lord Glenconner, bought and developed the island of Mustique. The author reveals terrible abuse and violence from her husband. He was flamboyant and self-centred, often leaving Anne to mop up and manage after his crazy behaviour. Despite this, Anne remained oddly infatuated by ‘Colin’ Lord Glenconnor who she stated could be charming and wonderful company.
Leaving her marriage, it seemed, was not an option. Her life was made bearable by finding ways to remain his wife but to have distance between them often. They were wealthy and, in addition to Mustique, owned many properties. It became easy for Lady Glenconner to stay at times in another of their houses in England, which functioned as a calming influence in their lives.
The author hid the violence for many years and is proud of her ability to have found ways to stay calm and divert the disgraceful behaviour of her husband. In doing so she allowed Lord Glenconner to take little responsibility for his actions.
Despite the glamour of being a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret and the luxurious lifestyle, the family was to endure the loss of two adult sons and a third severely injured in a car accident. These periods in her life were turbulent and devastating.
The author is now ninety, her husband is dead, and she enjoys her life as a writer. It’s hard not to admire the author, as she is a woman of substance who has experienced life’s difficulties in many ways over many years. She remains, in the latter stages of her life, gracious and engaging.
In Whatever Next? Lessons from an Unexpected Life, Anne Glennconner provides a snapshot into a life that will appeal and interest some people and frustrate others.
Reviewed by: Heather Whitford Roche
Ballarat Writers Inc. Review Group, Jan 2023
Review copy provided by the publisher