Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke


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Sunday, July 22, 2012

In Another Life

Rose:  My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison

Memoir

This was an absolutely fascinating book--almost like reading about an alien life form!  It confounds the mind to read about a woman who led such a life as this--a life that is so far from what most of us consider normal that it is almost as if we are two different creatures on the same planet. 

Rosina Harrison spent her entire life in servitude to the Astor Family, one of the richest, most powerful and influential families in both America and Britain.  For almost 40 years, Rose worked for the Astor's for 6 1/2 days per week.  The situation was almost caste like, so divided by class lines that it is almost impossible for an American to understand it.  Rose devoted her entire adult life to the care and comfort of perhaps the most notorious Astor:  Viscountess Nancy.  Lady Astor was a powerful, outspoken woman during a time when such a thing was scandalous.  Today, she is known for her wit, her scathing comebacks and her outlandish parties as well as her political and humanitarian causes.  Little, though, was written about the woman who took care of Lady Astor's every want and need for most of her adult life, Rosina. 

I was enthralled by this story-reading about a life so radically different from my own kept me glued to the pages.  My favorite parts were the stories about World War II and how both women shed their class differences for a common cause.  The book caused me to want to know about both women-especially the polarizing figure of Lady Astor. 

Finally, I didn't know whether to pity Rose or to envy her. While a life of servitude is something I would not choose, the life a 'commoner' like Rose found was one most of us can only dream of. She visited countries around the world; visited royalty and lived a life in the most beautiful homes on Earth. Was the trade-off worth it? Read and decide for yourself.

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