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The Secret Life of a Schoolgirl: A Memoir Hardcover – July 8, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (July 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140004782X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400047826
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,555,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kingsland's delightfully lusty memoir of her girlhood in Cornwall and London is writ around a secret she has kept for more than 40 years and had noted only in her diaries: in 1955, at 14, she lost her virginity to her first crush, legendary English actor Richard Burton, whom she had met by happenstance one night after having seen him in Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood with her father some months before. The book begins in an awkward rush but soon slips into a languid, lush pacing full of intricate detail. Kingsland's father had been in the regiment in India, where he met and married her mother, who was born in India of English parents. Their life was that of the Raj era: servants, ayahs, bearers. Then Partition forced them to flee to the grim, gray world of Cornwall, where Kingsland's angry and self-absorbed father spent his time womanizing and writing bad poetry, and her sad mother turned agoraphobic until she won a huge sum in the football pools, which allowed the family to move to London. Kingsland writes evocatively of her sexual coming-of-age without false romanticism (though she was wildly in love with Burton while he was infatuated with her precocious youth) and writes of the actor with a verve and insight that renews his appeal for those who might have forgotten the bedroom eyes and deep Welsh voice that made him a star. This memoir is vivid, charming and beautifully wrought, capturing both the isolated country world of Cornwall and the provocative urbanity of post-WWII London, and the subtle transition from girlhood to womanhood.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-In 1948, at the time of the fall of the British Raj, Kingsland and her family were forced to return to England from India. So begins this absorbing memoir of the author's youth and sometimes reckless, usually fascinating journey to adulthood. Rosemary and her brothers were born in India to a life of privilege. In England, where her younger sister was born, the family's lifestyle declined steadily as they moved from London to Cornwall and back. Her parents waged increasingly fierce battles against one another, leaving her mother emotionally fragile, and her father slamming the door behind him as he ran off to one of his mistresses. Everything changed for Kingsland when she met the Welsh actor Richard Burton at a cafe. She was almost 15 and he was 29. They had a brief affair from which she emerged weary but with increased confidence and maturity. The realization that she had her life ahead of her filled her with hope. The beauty of this book lies in Kingsland's sensitive and vivid account of her world. Postwar England was a grim place of bombed buildings, shortages, and rationing. The author skillfully and inexorably guides readers through her rough times, making them care about what becomes of her and her family. She is compassionate but also true to her memories. Readers will enjoy this compelling, beautifully written memoir for its descriptions of a different time and culture, its exploration of the nature of love, and the author's self-discovery.
Susanne Bardelson, Arvada Public Library, CO
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Don't be fooled by the slightly salacious title--this is a gorgeous memoir that's sexy without being trashy. Rosemary Kingsland tells a truly unique coming-of-age story: raised in the English Raj, she and her family move back to England from India when the Empire falls, only to live in poverty, first in the misty wilds of Cornwall (the descriptions in this part are among the most enchanting of the book) and then in grimy post-war London. Her family is like something out of "Long Day's Journey Into Night", full of frustration, alcoholism and violence, but she renders them fully human and sympathetic. Of course, the most shocking part of the book is about her affair, at age 14, with Richard Burton. An inveterate womanizer, Burton manages to seduce young Rosemary while simultaneously carrying on other affairs. The story of their relationship is surprising, but the author appears to have no bitterness or anger towards Burton, and he comes across as surprisingly sad, despite his dashing ways and handsome looks.
Overall, this is a rare literary memoir that is also compulsively readable and provocative. I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on April 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This delightfully lusty memoir's core bit of cheap gossip is a secret she's kept for more than 40 years: she lost her virginity to Richard Burton. After a rather shaky beginning, Kingsland settles down to a slower pace, pulling readers into a lush background tale of her parents' life in India during the era of the Raj. When Partition forced them back to England, her father was devastated by the change in their circumstances and comforted himself with women and writing poetry. Her mother became agoraphobic in defense - until their fortunes were changed by their improbably huge winnings in a football pool, which allowed them to move from the provincial Cornwall into London.
The episodes surrounding her relationship with Burton, when he was a stage star and she was a star-struck, infatuated 14yo schoolgirl, are written with insight that can only be gained by the passage of all the intervening years.
Charming and evocative coming-of-age memoir.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A wonderfully poetic and lyrical memoir beginning in India, where Kingsland was born. Her teenaged affair with Richard Burton is certainly good and even "delicious" reading, but it's the story of her life, and of her family, that keeps you turning the pages long after midnight. This will be my most recommended book to friends this year!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Candace Scott on June 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book made a big splash when it was published, there were oodles of headlines screaming, "Richard Burton was a pedophile!" Ah hem... not quite. The only portions worth reading here are the Burton ones, the rest of the tome is one rather large snooze fest. Kingsland lived a teenage life to die for: as a 14 year old school girl in London, she meets Richard Burton, then 29 and starring in various Shakespearean productions at the Old Vic. Not surprisingly, she was instantly attracted to Burton (what female between the ages of 9 and 90 wouldn't be?), and told him she was 17.
Then their affair began. It was long afterwards that Kingsland admitted to Richard that she was actually only 14 years of age, but Burton didn't seem to care, and continued making love to the girl for several more months. He finally dumps her, as he dumped all his mistresses of that era: Jean Simmons, Claire Bloom and Susan Strasberg, to name a few of his thousands of conquests. Kingsland writes well and her chapters on Burton are engrossing, to say the least. Richard comes off as a drunken but charming cad, and his lovemaking prowess seems to have been rather limited: a slam, bam, thank you, ma'am sort of guy. But when you look like that, who is going to complain? There are some problems with dates, the author puts Burton in London when he wasn't there, and he was certainly not playing Hamlet at the Vic in 1954!
I can think of worse things than to be deflowered by Richard Burton, even if he should have done the proper thing and waited until this girl was out of school. If you're into Burton, this will do you nicely.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By kooky Kid on August 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Not salacious in any way, this is a touching memoir that focuses on a bittersweet childhood and adolescence. Naturally the teenage romance with the older Charismatic Burton is the shocking and exciting factor, but there is more to enjoy in this book than just this relationship.
Rosemary's descriptions and tales of her family and environment thrilled me from beginning to end.Like all good memoirs, this one generously reveals the author's individual perspective: we are allowed to climb into the window and visit her life.I enjoyed the book!
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