The doctor who delivered Sybilla Aleid Elsa von Schoenebeck on March 16, 1911, in Berlin had a keen eye. “She looks so clever,” he said. Indeed. She grew up to be Sybille Bedford, successful novelist, travel writer, judicial commentator, biographer, and memoirist. Her true genius, however, may have been for friendship. Selina Hastings’s biography, rich with excerpts from diaries and letters, does full justice to Sybille the writer, but she intrigues the reader most with her account of Sybille’s relationships. As a fisher of friends, Sybille cast a net around the globe and the century.
Sybille’s parents were a handsome, unhappy pair: her father, an impoverished minor German aristocrat known as “le Beau Max”; her mother, Lisa, a spoiled beauty, Jewish by birth, with a formidable intellect and an intense desire to write.