Starting spring of 2019 the good people at Amazon began giving away free Kindle downloads of a dozen or so books, recently translated into English from a myriad of languages. Representing a diverse assortment of languages and nations of origin, I eagerly helped myself to the offerings and did so again when Amazon did another giveaway the following year. As a result my Kindle is stocked with number of promising works translated from an array of languages including Hebrew, Afrikaans and Turkish.
One of those offerings I happened to download was Annejet van der Zijl’s 2018 biography An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew. Translated from Dutch, I could apply it towards a number of reading challenges, including the European Reading Challenge, 2021 Stacked Reviews Reading Challenge, Books in Translation Reading Challenge, Nonfiction Reader Challenge, and because it was a free download the Clean Out Your E-Reader Challenge (COYER). After a steady diet of heavy nonfiction I was in the mood for something on the lighter side so a few weeks ago I gave An American Princess a try. I enjoyed it and as far as free downloads go, I thought it was a heck of good deal.
Who would have thought when young woman from Upstate New York fell head over heels in love with the vacationing son of a wealthy Pittsburgh family it would lead to four more marriages and a life spanning two continents and membership in two royal families (and a close association with another) encompassing the Gilded Age, World Wars I and II, the Depression and concluding with the Cold War. While only one of her five husbands “genuinely loved her for herself” before he died and left her a widow, she outlived nearly all of them, even after those marriages ending in divorce. Family fortunes were lost, usually squandered away by reckless spouses but after every loss, personal and financial Allene always bounced back stronger than before.
That 18 year old pregnant country girl who wedded a rich out of towner matured into a sophisticated New York society matron, sponsoring charity functions and living a life of refinement and privilege. Leaving America for Europe Allene made Paris her home, married a German prince, and after divorcing him married a Russian count 12 years her junior. She also helped broker the marriage of Princess Julianna of the Netherlands, who later would be crowned queen. In the years before she died Winston Churchill, retired from politics would paint landscapes near her French estate. In the words of the villainous archeologist Belloc from Raiders of the Lost Ark we are simply passing through history. Judging by Annejet van der Zijl’s biography Allene Tew *was* history.