Author(s): Sian Evans
Queen Bees looks at the lives of six remarkable women who made careers out of being society hostesses, including Lady Astor, who went on to become the first female MP, and Mrs Greville, who cultivated relationships with Edward VII, as well as Lady Londonderry, Lady Cunard, Laura Corrigan and Lady Colefax. Written with wit, verve and heart, Queen Bees is the story of a form of societal revolution, and the extraordinary women who helped it happen. In the aftermath of the First World War, the previously strict hierarchies of the British class system were weakened. For a number of ambitious, spirited women, this was the chance they needed to slip through the cracks and take their place at the top of society as the great hostesses of the time. In an age when the place of women was uncertain, becoming a hostess was not a chore, but a career choice, and though some of the hostesses' backgrounds were surprisingly humble, their aspirations were anything but. During the inter-war years these extraordinary women ruled over London society from their dining tables and salons - entertaining everyone from the Mosleys to the Mitfords, from millionaires to maharajahs, from film stars to royalty - and their influence can still be felt today.
So entertaining - and there's lots of insider fun to be had... Excels at anecdotes and punchlines... The strength of Queen Bees is its wealth of detail and its author's nose for a human story... This book dances in and out of its subject to the sound of plate-smashing, cut-glass gossip, ukeleles, Beecham's orchestras, jazz bands, Nazi anthems and bombs. "I've been to a marvellous party," wrote Noel Coward. Thanks to Queen Bees, we can feel as though we were there too. The Times The book, like their parties, is often "enormous fun" Guardian Delightful... Crammed with fascinating anecdotes Independent Rich in anecdote... a fascinating account... Group biography is a difficult trick to pull off, but Evans is deft with her interweaving of narrative and history... The Sunday Times Evans's pacy account of these intrepid social lion-hunters sparkles with famous names Mail on Sunday Gloriously gossipy... A snapshot of a bygone age from Gosford Park-style big country house parties to dancing until dawn in Park Lane mansions long demolished. Red Magazine The individual characters of these unusual women are well delineated and all played significant roles in their time... An entertaining "spectacle of celebrity, talent, and burning ambition". Sunday Express An irresistible and witty account Woman & Home A compelling portrait of six inspiring women The Lady Wonderfully readable Country Life An exciting read, Evans has painted a compelling portrait of six inspiring women. The Mitford Society Evans makes a good case for her hostesses' importance as purveyors of soft power: the artistic, cultural and political reach of their address books, she argues had a profound impact on modern British society. All were marvellously quotable, as spiteful as they were ambitious, mistresses of the apparently throwaway remark designed to draw blood, but their success was due as much to their status and fortunes as to their brilliance. One of the pleasures of books like these is that you close them with a feeling of overwhelming gratitude for your own mundane life Literary Review
Cultural historian Sian Evans has worked for the National Trust, the V&A and the Design Museum, and is the author of several works of social history including Mrs Ronnie: The Society Hostess Who Collected Kings, The Manor Reborn and Life Below Stairs. Sian lives in London.