'Interesting women have secrets. They also ought to have sisters.'
From the beginning of their lives, the Olivier sisters stood out: surprisingly emancipated, strikingly beautiful, markedly determined, and alarmingly 'wild'. Rupert Brooke was said to be in love with all four of them; D. H. Lawrence thought they were frankly 'wrong'; Virginia Woolf found them curiously difficult to read.
The sisters seemed always to be one step ahead of their time. Margery and Daphne studied at Cambridge when education was still thought by some to be damaging to ovaries. Noel became a doctor; Daphne a pioneering teacher; Margery's promising trajectory was shot down by mental illness; Brynhild, the great beauty of the four, excelled as a Bloomsbury hostess yet gave it up for love and a life of uncertainty.
In this intimate, sweeping biography, Sarah Watling brings the sisters in from the margins, tracing lives that span colonial Jamaica, the bucolic life of Victorian progressives, the frantic optimism of Edwardian Cambridge, the bleakness of two world wars, and a host of evolving philosophies for life over the course of the twentieth century.
Noble Savages is a compelling portrait of sisterhood in all its complexities, which rediscovers the lives of four extraordinary women within the varied fortunes of the feminism of their times, while illuminating the battles and ethics of biography itself.
Sarah Watling was the 2016 winner of the Tony Lothian Prize. She holds a degree in history from the University of Cambridge and a master’s degree in historical research from the University of London. Noble Savages is her first book.
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