Sylvia, Queen Of The Headhunters: An Outrageous Englishwoman And Her Lost Kingdom
Sylvia Brooke (1885-1971) was one of the more exotic figures of the twentieth century. Otherwise known as the Ranee of Sarawak, she was the consort (and by custom, slave) of Sir Vyner Brooke, the last White Rajah, whose family had ruled the jungle kingdom of Sarawak on Borneo for three generations. They had their own flag, revenue, postage stamps, and money, and each White Rajah had the power of life and death over his subjects - Malays, Chinese and headhunting Dyak tribesmen.
The regime of the White Rajahs was long deemed superior to any in the British Empire, but by the 1930s there was a sharp decline in their power and prestige. At the centre of Sarawak's perceived decadence was Ranee Sylvia, author of eleven books, extravagantly-dressed socialite and incorrigible self-dramatist, described by the press as 'that most charming of despots', and by her own brother as 'a female Iago'. The Colonial Office branded her 'a dangerous woman, full of Machiavellian schemes to alter the succession, and spectacularly vulgar in her behaviour.
Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters chronicles the extraordinary life of the Ranee, with a supporting cast including Sylvia's father, a celebrated courtier in love with his own son; her whimsical and sexually incontinent husband, Rajah Vyner; the Rajah's unhinged, Rasputinesque private secretary; and the Rajah's nephew, whose folie de grandeur as the young heir gave way (after he was thwarted) to an interest in world peace and flying saucers.
Philip Eade... is a natural writer: percipient, sympathetic, amusing... and those who have never heard of Sylvia Brooke are in for a treat (MICHAEL HOLROYD)An enthralling study of an extraordinary woman. Philip Eade's book reads like a thriller... it is wonderfully written (JOANNA LUMLEY)juicily entertaining... an exceptional life, one to which Eade does rich justice. (MIRANDA SEYMOUR MAIL ON SUNDAY)biting biography... draws on family archives to tell the full, jaw-dropping story of a family more than usually mischevious and dysfunctional. (THE TIMES)Eade adroitly handles both the tragic and the comic... certainly entertains. (BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE)a rollicking good read (RICHARD DAVENPORT-HINES THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)a thorough, fascinating and rather giddying book... sensational (LYNNE TRUSS THE SUNDAY TIMES)traces this tangled tale with diligence, humour and an easy style... For the true story read Philip Eade. (CHRISTOPHER ESHER THE SPECTATOR)Eade has uncovered a mine of marvellous material and handles it all with consummate wit and style... a dazzling debut... the perfect summer holiday read. (HUGH MASSINGBERD COUNTRY LIFE)"Philip Eade's fascinating biography recounts a hedonistic life lived in Sarawak, Europe and the Caribbean.... It's all highly entertaining." (THE FIRST POST)A scrupulous researcher... his prose is clear and his style pleasing: he writes with panache. (SARA WHEELER DAILY TELEGRAPH)A ruthless self-publicist, irrepressible fantasist and the subject of Philip Eade's mordant and hugely entertaining biography. (LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS)'If you thought White Mischief was the last word in English expatriate decadence, you haven't yet met Sylvia and the Brookes.' (THE TIMES)an entertaining peep-show view of the British ruling class at the end of the Imperial age. (Lucy Hughes-Hallett TLS)the kind of subject that biographers must dream of...Colourful anecdotes of eccentricity, lunacy and infidelity crowd every page. (CHRISTOPHER HART SUNDAY TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR)an incredible story (DAILY MAIL)...there is no denying the technical accomplishment of [Eade's] book - all the more remarkable because it is his first. (KATHRYN HUGHES GUARDIAN)Amazing and hilarious (CHRISTOPHER FOYLE DAILY EXPRESS)
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