The tale of Lilla, the author's great-grandmother, begins with her birth in Chefoo in China in 1882, where she lived a charmed and Bohemian expat life, the younger of a set of 'heavenly twins' from a spirited, unvictorian family. Lilla's eventful life was to span five continents and three husbands, forming a panoramic picture of British colonial life in the Orient (during the Boxer Rebellion, Pearl Harbour, and the rise of Communism) and under the British Raj in India. Throughout her life, Lilla's personal obsession was cooking. It was also her way of showing devotion to her cold and remote husband. Food was her wonderland and her means of survival, her way to help make 'a man love you, long for you, and hold back tears when he is forced to leave your side'. It was while Lilla was in a Japanese prison camp that she began to dream up recipes and jot them down like a modern Mrs Beeton. Her brother, a talented illustrator, provided drawings. Empowered by imagination and strength of spirit, her cookbook was composed as if the war had never happened.
Lilla's journey ends a hundred years on with her death in Tunbridge Wells - the peaceful conclusion to a sensuous, full life of passion, romance, and courage. Told tenderly and wittily by the author, in this family memoir Lilla becomes a living presence. The text will be liberally sprinkled with recipes, rare maps, letters and photographs from the author's personal archives.
Frances Osborne studied Law at Oxford and trained as a barrister and journalist. She is in her early thirties and has two young children.