Claire Rubinstein reviews ‘Mother Anguish’ by Basia Briggs
As the second series of The Crown aired in early December and Netflix fans everywhere were glued to their screens, I found myself equally enthralled – but instead with the newly published memoir Mother Anguish by our very own queen of London’s social scene, Basia Briggs.
Written in a friendly and open style, it is as if Basia is right there telling you the story of her extraordinary life. The bestselling book is instantly addictive. From her idyllic early years at the heart of her loving aristocratic Polish family in the Surrey countryside to her move to London with her glamorous but childlike mother and her various male suitors, Basia is forced to become independent at a young age. She forges a path for herself in London society only to find herself in exile in the cultural wasteland of Australia. Condemned to a life of domestic drudgery at the hands of an alcoholic husband, it is her time in the Melbourne suburbs which is the most shocking. The Basia we all know and love here in London is so serene and graceful it is hard to imagine the betrayal (by her own mother at a time just after she had had two children), traumas and darkness she endured during that time.
The book moves at a lively and unputdownable pace. I laughed – the descriptions of the Australians are sublime – and I cried: The toxic and abusive relationship with her first husband and the subsequent custody battle for her children after her return to London. It is heartbreaking.
Here is a tale of love and loss, redemption and salvation, determination and courage but above all hope and inspiration. Despite everything, at the heart of every page, we see the unconditional love of a child for a parent, as Basia tells of her journey back to her beloved London and takes her rightful place at the pinnacle of London society.
Girl power has a ladylike poster child after all.