'I would be most unhappy to think that any part of this memoir should be cut on grounds of 'decency', for those bits are essential...'
For fear of growing up like his stiff upper-lipped, disapproving Uncle Dick, Roderic Fenwick Owen (1921-2011) survived Eton, Oxford and World War II to become a travel writer, experiencing the varied wonders of the 20th Century's people and places in that guise. At the heart of his adventures - which took him from the Arctic to Australia, America to Russia, and a good portion of the places in between - lay his search for love, even if just for the night. He fell madly in love with, and married, a Polynesian princess whilst beachcombing in Tahiti; but when a dazzling trip to 1950s New York opened his eyes to the fact he was more attracted to men than women, he was forced to continue his quest for his soulmate under threat of danger, at a time when the police were prosecuting and imprisoning more gay men than ever before, including some of his friends.
Featuring a stellar cast of celebrities (Eisenhower, Jackson Pollock, Christopher Lee and Sean Connery to name a few), plus ordinary people whose extraordinary stories have lain dormant until now, OH, WHAT A LOVELY CENTURY follows Roddy as he careered (accidentally) through some of the biggest moments of 20th Century history, including experiencing Nazi Germany first-hand in 1939 (he arrived home days before war broke out); becoming court poet to the ruler of Abu Dhabi when the oil that would transform the region was discovered; and being part of significant conversations in the Pentagon during the Cold War.
Lyrical, witty and enthrallingly honest about sex and high society, this book is both a highly personal memoir and a marvellous obituary of an ever-changing and now lost world - that was frequently the best of times, and sometimes the worst.