This is a biography of a member of the British aristocracy who was considered one of the greatest hostesses of her day (e.g. her 'Eve of Parliament' receptions were considered to be the event to attend). She was the daughter of Henry Chaplin, a shooting, riding, gambling, MP (member of Parliament) known as "The Squire", a widower who never re-married and who had little or no time for his children (though he apparently loved them dearly) because of these interests. Edith was raised by her mother's family, the Duke(s) of Sutherland. Edith, herself, was an excellent rider and shot, and participated in these activities for most of her life. She married Charles, Viscount Castlereagh (later Marquess of Londonderry) a handsome womanizer, when both were 21, and they remained married for the rest of their lives. The book is well written and describes the period, the people, and the events in an eminently readable manner. Edith was friends with some of the most important people of this period, and had a 'salon' at which these people could relax and enjoy themselves. Membership in this salon (known as the Ark - each member assuming an animal avatar) was highly sought after, and Edith was one of the best informed women of her day because of the friends she made in the salon.
One important aspect of Edith's life was her commitment to women's issue (the vote, and the ability to have jobs outside of those of service & teaching). During WW1, she was the founder the Women's Legion, an organization which put women in jobs which men had done prior to their going off to war. Her activities here were considered to be important in persuading men to support the vote for women, although it did not have the same effect in the area of jobs. One issue with the book, is with the subject, herself: her husband was unfaithful to her throughout their marriage (once even eloping with Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough), yet Edith always forgave him, and always took the blame for his actions. It's almost contradictory that a woman who could work so hard for women would also be so self-effacing in her marriage: she was deeply in love with her husband, and she was determined to keep him, even if it meant she had to accept his mistresses in her own home. She had many opportunities to stray (she was a very attractive woman) but she remained true to her spouse, unlike many of her peers (for whom liaisons were common, if not expected). Other than her rather abject acceptance of her husband's bad behavior, she was a interesting woman (she was known as Circe, by many in her circle). The book is longer than need be (Charles' sexual shenanigans take up more room than necessary), but it's a good book for those interested in this period.