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Book Review

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Caroline de Margerie, American Lady: The Life of Susan Mary Alsop

  • 2012
  • | Publisher: Tantor Media

A frothy biography of the Georgetown hostess that focuses on the boldfaced names she knew.

Nancy Mitford modeled a character on her, but it was as a comically priggish American. As revealed in Caroline de Margerie’s bonbon of a biography American Lady: The Life of Susan Mary Alsop, however, Susan Mary Alsop was far from the typical American in post-World War II France. Married to an American diplomat, Susan Mary was enjoying an affair with the British ambassador – one that didn’t impede her friendship with his wife. Later, she would return to America and marry political columnist Joseph Alsop, despite knowing that he was gay.

De Margerie stresses her gifts as a hostess, intermingling different strata of first Parisian and then Georgetown society, and her book is similar. Susan Mary’s great skill was as an observer, not in making history, and de Margerie’s great skill is in combining the boldfaced names amongst which Susan Mary moved into an entertaining look at the second half of the 20th century. The result is frothy fun, light on interviews and quotes and heavy on the authorial voice. American Lady isn’t exactly scholarly, but for those interested in anecdotes about the Kennedy White House or newly liberated Paris, it’s a gossipy treat.

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