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Christabel Bielenberg


Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (2003).

Christabel Bielenberg, a niece of Lord Northcliffe, married a German lawyer in 1944 and lived throughout the war in Germany. She described her experiences in The Past Is Myself, to which this book is a sequel. It takes up the story at the end of the war and follows events in the author's life, first in Germany and England, and then in Ireland where she went to farm.

Christabel coped resourcefully with the difficulties and privations of life in postwar Germany, but after a few months she found the means to return to her family in England, bringing her three sons with her but forced to leave her husband Peter behind. Back home she found a job as a War Correspondent and returned to Germany, where after considerable string-pulling she managed to obtain a visa for Peter.

Neither Christabel nor Peter was happy in postwar Britain, and matters became worse when Peter had a serious accident on his motorcycle and took a long time to recover. Christabel was unwilling to return to Germany but Ireland, which she had known as a girl, seemed a possible alternative. Neither she nor Peter knew anything about farming and they had little money, but they bought a semi-derelict farm in Wicklow and learned by trial and error; Peter's main source of agricultural know-how was apparently Teach Yourself Farming. The affectionate and humorous account of rural Ireland presented here has considerable charm and describes a world that has now all but vanished.

Readers of Christabel's earlier memoirs will certainly want to read this sequel. Later in life she became involved in the Peace Movement in Northern Ireland but this does not figure here. We take our leave of her at her seventieth birthday party, surrounded by family and friends.

21 October 2003

%T The Road Ahead
%A Bielenberg, Christabel
%I Corgi Books
%C London
%D 1992, 1993
%G ISBN 0-552-99469-3
%P 221 pp
%K autobiography
%O paperback
%O illustrated
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