STARRED REVIEW
August 2017

The lady rebel

By Valerie Hobbs

Lady Anne Barnard’s early life unfolded like a Jane Austen novel. Fatherless at 18 and a titled Scot with no fortune, Lady Anne was meant to marry early to bring some money into her family.

Share this Article:

Lady Anne Barnard’s early life unfolded like a Jane Austen novel. Fatherless at 18 and a titled Scot with no fortune, Lady Anne was meant to marry early to bring some money into her family. But as chronicled by Stephen Taylor in Defiance, Lady Anne did no such thing, instead enjoying many flirtations and friendships and writing the ballad “Auld Robin Grey,” a giant hit of its day. On her own, Lady Anne managed to become a woman of property in London, as well as the confidant of the most powerful men of the age, including the Prince of Wales.

Drawing on Lady Anne’s own memoirs and family letters, Taylor follows Lady Anne from early childhood on, and at 400 pages, Defiance occasionally feels long. But the story finds its heart in Lady Anne’s late marriage: At 42, after turning down at least 20 other suitors, she married Andrew Barnard, 12 years her junior. Andrew was posted to Cape Town, South Africa, and she went with him. “Their happiness flourished in this bizarre, magnificent space because it offered freedom of a kind unavailable at home,” Taylor writes, recounting the couple’s long journey to the South African interior, Lady Anne’s diplomatic skills hosting British and Dutch colonists and native Africans, and her naturalist work collecting plants and animals.

On a later solo trip to South Africa, Andrew had a liaison with an African slave, fathering a child, Christina. After Andrew’s death, Lady Anne learned about Christina and brought the girl to London, raising her in her Berkeley Square mansion. Christina served as Anne’s amanuensis as Anne wrote her memoirs, and she later married a Wiltshire landowner and had seven children.

In Defiance, Lady Anne’s engaging voice comes through clearly, along with her unconventionality, her talents and her compassion.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

Defiance

Defiance

By Valerie Hobbs
Farrar, Straus
ISBN 9780374308476

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!