Reviews

  • "The best group biography of the year – of many years, in fact – is Sarah Watling’s Noble Savages, the story of the four Olivier sisters... Their mother was the model for Tess of the D’Urbevilles, their joint best friend was Rupert Brooke, and they had, said Virginia Woolf, strange glass eyes which they took out at night. But this is not why they are interesting. After feral childhoods in Surrey, where their parents lived in a Fabian utopia, each woman struggled with postwar realities: insanity, grief, poverty, catastrophic marriages. Elegantly structured in “seven fragments”, Watling’s book gives us a riveting drama that begins as pastoral comedy and ends as tragedy."

    Frances Wilson, New Statesman, Books of the Year
  • "This is the first time [the Olivier sisters] have had a biography to themselves, and a very fine job Sarah Watling makes of it thoroughly fascinating... This book is interesting on a dozen levels."

    Daily Telegraph
  • "Four remarkable sisters born at the end of the 19th century, and I didn’t know about any of them before reading this utterly absorbing book in which their whole lives are laid before us. Their story has opened my eyes to whole new areas of early 20th-century British life."

    Daily Mail
  • "In this compelling biography Sarah Watling tells [the Olivier sisters’] tale for the first time. It is the story of the end of Victorianism and the birth of the modern age. It is also, grippingly, the story of the early feminist movement, and a vital contribution to the construction of an alternative women’s history… [Watling] is quite brilliant."

    Guardian
  • "A story of four girls rebelling against Edwardian stuffiness is vividly told… in this thoughtful, compassionate biography… I found much to celebrate and admire here."

    The Times