One Woman's True Story of Love and War in the Orient
By Frances Osborne
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780345472380, 320pp.)
Publication Date: September 13, 2005
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At the end of her life, Frances Osborne’s one-hundred-year-old great-grandmother Lilla was as elegant as ever–all fitted black lace and sparkling-white diamonds. To her great-grandchildren, Lilla was both an ally and a mysterious wonder. Her bedroom was filled with treasures from every exotic corner of the world. But she rarely mentioned the Japanese prison camps in which she spent much of World War II, or the elaborate cookbook she wrote to help her survive behind the barbed wire.
Beneath its polished surface, Lilla’s life had been anything but effortless. Born in 1882 to English parents in the beautiful North China port city of Chefoo, Lilla was an identical twin. Growing up, she knew both great privilege and deprivation, love and its absence. But the one constant was a deep appreciation for the power of food and place. From the noodles of Shanghai to the chutney of British India and the roasts of England, good food and sensuous surroundings, Lilla was raised to believe, could carry one a long way toward happiness. Her story is brimming with the stuff of good fiction: distant locales, an improvident marriage, an evil mother-in-law, a dramatic suicide, and two world wars.
Lilla’s remarkable cookbook, which she composed while on the brink of starvation, makes no mention of wartime rations, of rotten vegetables and donkey meat. In the world this magical food journal, now housed in the Imperial War Museum in London, everyone is warm and safe in their homes, and the pages are filled with cream puffs, butterscotch, and comforting soup. In its writing, Lilla was able to transform the darkest moments into scrumptious escape.
Lilla’s Feast is a rich evocation of a bygone world, the inspiring story of an ordinary woman who tackled the challenges life threw in her path with an extraordinary determination.
Frances Osborne is a former lawyer, stockbroker, and freelance journalist turned full-time writer. She lives in London with her husband, George Osborne, the youngest Member of Parliament, and her two young children.
“I loved LILLA'S FEAST - absolutely absorbing, both for its historical content and its personal details. I felt for Lilla, every step of the way ... a real feeling for place fills this book ... lovely.” -Margaret Forster, author of Lady’s Maid, Daphne Du Maurier, and Georgie Girl
“LILLA'S FEAST is a wonderful, inspiring book. Part page-turner, part history of the British Empire in the Far East, Frances Osborne perfectly captures the stories of a lost generation of women. It is impossible to read this book without admiring the brave adventurers who risked everything, were tested almost beyond endurance, and yet remained proud and strong to the end.” -Amanda Foreman, author of GEORGIANA
“Passionately written and compelling, Frances Osborne's impressive debut is a wonderful read. The extraordinary life of this ordinary woman is a tumultuous feast of the senses.” -Santa Monefiore
“LILLA'S FEAST is a captivating narrative of one resilient woman’s one-hundred-year journey through the cultural changes and political turmoil of the late nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries. Her collection of exotic recipes were her souvenirs from the many outposts of the British Empire that she called home and became her connection to reality when her freedom was taken away.”
–JOANNE LAMB HAYES, author of Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen
and Grandma’s Wartime Baking Book