Memoirs can make for tedious reading: the minutiae of someone else’s life, the juicy tidbits left out, the worthy commentary left in. But then along comes Barbara Amiel, the wife of the former media tycoon Conrad Black, with Friends and Enemies: A Memoir, 608 gloriously indiscreet pages of elegant vitriol. It could equally well be called Sex and Spite in High Society, a cautionary tale of lavish lifestyles, failed marriages, half-hearted suicide attempts and oral sex with an aristocratic pensioner.

Mostly, though, she’s taking a very public revenge on the friends who deserted her after the downfall of her husband, and she’s clearly enjoying it. Nancy Kissinger is depicted as rude and ill-mannered; the wife of a billionaire philanthropist is spiteful and opinionated. And don’t get her started on what she thinks about grasping lawyers, unscrupulous art dealers and faithless hairdressers.

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