A razor-sharp, beautifully written survey of the world of the wealthy heiress – glittering and gleaming, flawed and fascinating – from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries.
We fantasize about what we would do if we inherited a fortune: the house on Cheyne Walk? The Manolo Blahniks? The racehorses? But what would it be like, never to have to dream in that way?
Laura Thompson explores the historical phenomenon of the heiress in four inviting categories. First, the Estate Builders, women like Elizabeth Sloan, whose father Sir Hans owned the land that is now Chelsea. The Patrons – those heiresses who tried to do something with their money – feature Winnaretta Singer, inheritor of the sewing-machine fortune, whose salon in Paris showcased work by Debussy, Fauré and Ravel. Party Girls enjoy their money without shame or conscience. After the death of hostess Ronnie Greville, high-living illegitimate daughter of a Scottish brewer death, 286 bottles of Bollinger 1928 were discovered in her Mayfair home. The Rebels include Alice Silverthorne, who walked her black panther along the Promenade des Anglais and shot her lover in the stomach at the Gare du Nord.
A famous heiress once said: 'Life is less sad with money'. It should be true. But is it? Laura Thompson's Heiresses takes the reader on a sparklingly enlightening search for the answer.
'This is one of the best true crime stories I've ever read. Laura Thompson's storytelling is impeccable, her grasp of psychology superb. And now I think I know what happened on that awful day' Evening Standard on A Different Class of Murder.
'Well-nigh perfect' Literary Review, on Life in a Cold Climate.
'Extraordinarily gripping: by turns titillating, moving and shocking' TLS, on Rex v. Edith Thompson.
'Thompson's is an astute, highly readable and well assembled book, and she writes with particular intelligence about the sisters' self-mythologising and their ongoing hold on the public imagination' Observer, on Take Six Girls.
'A brilliant study, original, perceptive, passionate' Selina Hastings, on Life in a Cold Climate