Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
Enid, born in Australia’s Hunter Valley, one of seven children, became one of the most famous hostesses of the early twentieth century. At her luxurious villa – La Fiorentina – on the French Riviera, an eclectic guest list graced its fabulous grounds. Architects, movie stars, artists and politicians, aristocrats and businessmen, flamboyant socialites and designers, with differing ages and interests all came together.
Only excessive wealth can bestow this glamour, and Enid, the daughter of Charles Lindeman, the successful wine grower, managed this. Her four marriages opened the doors to the lives of the elite in the world’s great cities. All her husbands died leaving her their fortunes. Three were significantly older and all fell in love with the tall, beautiful young woman with a svelte figure and stunning blue eyes.
Robert Wainwright has written other biographies of fascinating women. Well- known in their lifetimes and focus of the media, they are portrayed in news-worthy detail. This public image can be two dimensional, superficial and often scandalous. This is a source that is grossly exaggerated or in some cases, downright wrong.
Robert Wainwright, as a Sydney Morning Herald journalist and successful biographer, seeks to find the truth by researching extensively and interviewing family and close friends.
Subjectivity always colours accounts such as these, but, in the pages of ‘Enid’, he has brought to life again a woman who was a complex combination of beauty, charm, poise, skill in many fields and an irresistible attraction which did not fade with advancing years.
Enid Lindeman was born in 1892. She was the fifth of seven children and enjoyed a blissfully happy childhood. Her father’s highly successful business was the avenue which led to her travelling to New York and Europe. She gained a cosmopolitan allure, which was an added attraction to her already irresistible traits. Men were entranced, even besotted, by her beauty and charm. Cruel remarks suggested she had killed her husbands as she acquired enormous wealth as a widow, but the book clearly shows that this is merely a vicious rumour….
With her third marriage to Furness, a shipping magnate and English peer, Enid became Viscountess Furness and the world of the exclusively wealthy welcomed her. Countless famous personalities graced her social gatherings. Writers such as P.G. Wodehouse and Somerset Maugham, actors Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin, Princess Grace and Winston Churchill all were guests.
Her home on the Riviera, the scene of many sparkling social events, came on the market in 2014 at the price of $525,000,000 – one of the most valuable properties in the world.
Her love of animals and the land led to times spent in Kenya on her farm there. She had a passion for the Middle East which meant holidays in Cairo, and, to her excitement, she was one of the first to visit the newly opened tomb of Tutankhamun at the invitation of Harold Carter.
All was not glamour. In the Great War, she drove an ambulance and aided the wounded tirelessly. In the Second World War, she rescued and supported the French Resistance and, in London, helped the war effort where she could. At times, she patrolled the bomb sites and rescued dogs.
Wainwright has produced a very readable biography of Enid. While she was admired and envied as a beauty who had it all, she remained a serene, caring, kind and very generous woman, unspoiled by all the advantages she enjoyed.
The research has helped to shape a fascinating and lively portrait of a woman who graced the lives of many last century.
The public seems to possess an insatiable hunger to learn how the famous live and Enid is a winner in this category. It is an engaging account of an Australian woman who graciously glided into a world closed to most, and became loved and admired universally.
The roller-coaster ride that is Enid’s life of love and loss allows the reader to enter her world and taste a little of the times that are now remembered with a warm nostalgia.
by Robert Wainwright
Allen and Unwin
ISBN 978 1760 296 544