... gripping ... Warning: this is far from being a totally fresh new book. It’s an updating of Vickers’s earlier biography ... 'This edition has been completely rewritten,' Vickers writes in the preface. That’s an overstatement. Reading the two versions in parallel, I noted swathes of prose from the first book reproduced word for word, or with tiny adjustments. So this is not so much a rewriting as a reheating with fresh seasoning ... Vickers paints an unforgettable picture of the world in which Gladys and Sunny grew up ... Vickers has an unerring eye for telling social details ... This is a pitiful, jaw-dropping story, brilliantly told.
... narrated with an admirable balance of sympathy and wit ... Vickers has ensured that Marlborough’s last duchess won’t return to obscurity any time soon by giving us this richly anecdotal and oddly captivating book.
Vickers has extensively reworked the book with the addition of new archive material. As the tale of a doomed American adventure into the British aristocracy, this revised edition couldn’t be better timed ... Vickers tells Gladys’s tale with brio and wit, but is nevertheless respectful of a life which could easily be presented as farce.
Almost the strangest aspect of this saga is the part played by the royal biographer Hugo Vickers, who first became interested in Gladys when he was sixteen while reading the diaries of Chips Channon. He followed her trail to the hospital, where he became a friendly visitor, seeing her on sixty-five occasions before her death in 1977 at the age of ninety-six. In this updated and rewritten edition of his 1979 biography, Vickers is admirably sympathetic while at the same time collecting every detail of his subject’s transgressions and eccentricities. He is also indefatig- able when noting titled names and quoting from letters and diaries that do not hold back when it comes to emphasizing Gladys Deacon’s peculiar character and the strange life she led.