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Oh, What a Lovely Century: One man's marvellous adventures in love, war and high society

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'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 '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.


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'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 '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.

43 review for Oh, What a Lovely Century: One man's marvellous adventures in love, war and high society

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vansa

    RF Owen led an incredible life, filled with interesting travels and met a wide range of people, and navigated the dangers of being openly gay at a time when that was a crime. This is an edited memoir, from the three volumes that he gave his family members. THis book was both too long, and not long enough. Some parts are excellently written and very evocative-his first visits to French Polynesia are lovely, his account of his visit to Bahrain and what were then called the Trucial States are fasci RF Owen led an incredible life, filled with interesting travels and met a wide range of people, and navigated the dangers of being openly gay at a time when that was a crime. This is an edited memoir, from the three volumes that he gave his family members. THis book was both too long, and not long enough. Some parts are excellently written and very evocative-his first visits to French Polynesia are lovely, his account of his visit to Bahrain and what were then called the Trucial States are fascinating and astute-I know of them only as hyper developed oil economies, Owen visited them when they were just about discovering oil, and his accounts of the realpolitik with multiple countries vying for power and trying to establish friendly rulers is very well written. His accounts of his relationships with his partners Nick, and later GianCarlo are deeply moving. However, the sections about his experiences during World War II were irritatingly flip, the account of his drive through Africa too short, and I would have liked more about his visit to post-war Poland-there's strangely nothing of it, while there are reams about his , quite frankly, uninteresting friends in England. On the whole, I found this book a bit of a disappointment, given the fascinating life he's had. I would recommend reading it, the good bits as I've mentioned are excellent and very informative. Skip the rest, though! 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nicola Pierce

    A sprawling, colourful, and marvellous account of a life well lived and one that was steeped in kindness and daring throughout. I've written a children's novel on the doomed John Franklin 1845 expedition to the Arctic and had no idea that this writer was a relative and had written his own account of the expedition. I had never heard of him but was immediately captivated by the title, then the cover and, finally, the blurb. It includes Owen's world war two experience, his exotic travels and very A sprawling, colourful, and marvellous account of a life well lived and one that was steeped in kindness and daring throughout. I've written a children's novel on the doomed John Franklin 1845 expedition to the Arctic and had no idea that this writer was a relative and had written his own account of the expedition. I had never heard of him but was immediately captivated by the title, then the cover and, finally, the blurb. It includes Owen's world war two experience, his exotic travels and very exotic/erotic adventures, both home and abroad. He provides great company in this memoir though I would have dearly loved a couple of photos to go along with it. Highly recommend it!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    A weighty tome that took a while to read but so worth the time to read it, very interesting and extraordinary recount of a very well and full life lived

  4. 5 out of 5

    carelessdestiny

    Once I'd started reading I couldn't put it down till the finish. His writing is wonderfully fluid and his memories are engrossing. Once I'd started reading I couldn't put it down till the finish. His writing is wonderfully fluid and his memories are engrossing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    joseph formosa randon

  6. 5 out of 5

    C R

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barry Shane

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  9. 5 out of 5

    Howard Raingold

  10. 5 out of 5

    G.R. Chambers

  11. 4 out of 5

    stephen michael pegg

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laurence Green

  13. 4 out of 5

    Seán Coireall M.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Harshbarger

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  16. 4 out of 5

    Richard Williams

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Day

  18. 4 out of 5

    jeremy taylor

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Shutt

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tommy

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gitari De Nesh

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paula

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anna Reads ‧͙⁺˚*・༓☾

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ida Karenina

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gerhard

  28. 5 out of 5

    Scarlett O.H.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Strachan

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

  32. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  33. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  34. 5 out of 5

    Izzy Smith

  35. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie

  36. 4 out of 5

    Denise McKinnon-Frew

  37. 5 out of 5

    Em

  38. 5 out of 5

    Dylan

  39. 5 out of 5

    T.

  40. 5 out of 5

    Amy Smith

  41. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  42. 4 out of 5

    Alison

  43. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

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