Friends and Enemies
Included in The Times and Daily Telegraph Book of the Year round-ups
‘Friends and Enemies is an extraordinary read showing unflinching candour from a truly remarkable woman’ Elton John
‘Blistering . . . shockingly candid . . . stiletto-sharp memoir of the year’ Daily Mail
‘Magnetic and magnificent . . . Amiel is superb, furious and, best of all, funny. Say what you like about her – and many have – but the Black Lady can write’ The Times
Barbara Amiel’s long-awaited memoir is shockingly honest, richly detailed and pulls few punches. An instinctive feminist and now a foe of feminism’s political correctness, her own memoirs cover a formidable array of experiences – political, sexual, marital and material. Born in London during the Blitz, the only consistent strain in her early life was a fierce belief in her identity as a Jew even as the Jewish community disowned her and an unquestioned view that women were free to do anything in any arena they chose without any need to win society’s approval. Which she very often did not.
Her rise to the senior rungs of journalism began in Canada after the emigration of her family and continued in the United Kingdom on her return. With four marriages and an assorted number of beaus, some famous, some infamous (some rather young, some rather elderly), she moved through different worlds encountering problems made more intractable on occasion by her own faulty choices. It is a measure of her writing skill that she held down plum jobs for many decades in Canadian and British journalism as well as appearances in U.S. publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Vogue.
As a writer of unabashedly libertarian views, she was derided as much for her wardrobe as for her ideas. Pilloried for years in books and television and called every conceivable name by the media, she is philosophical. ‘I love fashion, sex and opera,’ she once told an interviewer, ‘but life would have been easier if my passions had been for train-spotting and stamp collecting.’
Her life has an operatic quality with a wildly diverse cast including Elton John, Henry Kissinger, Anna Wintour, Oscar de la Renta, Princess Diana, Tom Stoppard, Brooke Astor, Ghislaine Maxwell, Ronald Harwood, David Frost and an array of the aristocrats of Manhattan and the stately homes of England. All handled, she writes ‘with my fatal combination of naivete and self-absorption’. The epic battle with the U.S. justice system leading to the trial and imprisonment of her husband Conrad Black (eventually substantially vindicated) became a litmus paper for sorting out friends from those who were quick to judge and brutal in their dismissal.
Friends and Enemies is not a book of vengeance but an attempt to find her own truth: a life that reads like a novel, eloquent, surprising, written with deeply personal candour and utterly un-put-downable.
‘This is undoubtedly the autobiography of the decade. Barbara Amiel’s searing – and sometimes brutal – honesty, both about herself and others, leaves the reader staggered . . . No-one expected a discreet memoir from Barbara Amiel, but few could possibly have imagined that it would be quite this powerfully, dangerously, profoundly self-revelatory’ Andrew Roberts
Friends and Enemies is an extraordinary read showing unflinching candour from a truly remarkable woman * Elton John * Magnetic and magnificent . . . Amiel is superb, furious and, best of all, funny. Say what you like about her - and many have - but the Black Lady can write -- Quentin Letts * The Times * Blistering . . . shockingly candid . . . stiletto-sharp memoir of the year * Daily Mail * Extraordinary -- Camilla Long * Sunday Times * Utterly gripping . . . [Amiel] has raised the bar stratospherically for the celebrity memoir -- Carol Midgley * The Times * Frighteningly, hilariously, gob-smackingly honest book . . . whatever you do, read this brilliant book -- Anna van Praagh * Evening Standard * I could go on reading about her life for ever . . . frank and funny -- Jan Moir * Daily Mail * A fabulous tale of sex and high society . . . 608 gloriously indiscreet pages of elegant vitriol -- Hilary Rose * The Times * A scorching memoir exposing the cut-throat world of the one per cent -- Chantal Clarendon * Daily Telegraph * Amiel is capable of taking one's breath away with her searing frankness, and, from the evidence so far presented, her book is grisly and gripping in almost equal measure . . . an absorbing historical document . . . a salacious read -- Simon Kelner * i news * Full of passion and fury . . . What a woman -- Sarah Sands * Mail on Sunday * An observant and unforgiving account of a life that "has always been a precarious mix of gutter and ballroom, of intense work and absolutely unhealthy play". Packed with enough memorable characters, household moves, dinner parties, and jewelry shopping excursions to fill at least three typical memoirs. A celebrity memoir with an uncompromising kick * Kirkus Reviews * Extraordinary . . . jaw-dropping candour . . . a terrific writer * Jewish Chronicle * Neither holds a candle to Barbara Amiel's sizzling sexpot-and-shopping extravaganza . . . entirely riveting -- Judith Woods * Mail on Sunday * Fabulously furious, frequently jaw-dropping book . . . This raging, splendid, defiant, crazy tigress of a book said it all -- Allison Pearson * Sunday Telegraph * I don't think I've enjoyed a book as much as Barbara Amiel's autobiography in years . . . Pure, wicked joy -- Anna van Praagh * Evening Standard * A beautifully written memoir that I could not put down . . . her memoir sets a new standard as an unreserved, self-deprecating narrative . . . Deploying her uncommon talent as a wordsmith, she has written a memoir that is a testament to her fearlessness in facing and admitting her own demons as well as in exposing the foibles, cruelty and failings of others -- Diane Francis * Financial Post * This is undoubtedly the autobiography of the decade. Barbara Amiel's searing - and sometimes brutal - honesty, both about herself and others, leaves the reader staggered. The fact that she has for decades been the most sexually attractive female public intellectual on either side of the Atlantic, and certainly knew it, got her into extraordinary scrapes which she describes with a political incorrectness that is as refreshing as it will be highly controversial. How one person could have lived so many starkly different lives - bikini model, gangster's moll, first female editor, TV provocateur, multi-married sexual adventuress, proud Zionist, poet's muse, Cold War warrior, titled society hostess, assiduous prison visitor, and more - is truly extraordinary. There is not a hint of self-pity despite endless opportunities for it - including a rape, an abortion, depression, and three divorces - but instead we get many abandoned, laugh-out-loud scenes and witticisms that will live with the reader for a long time. No-one expected a discreet memoir from Barbara Amiel, but few could possibly have imagined that it would be quite this powerfully, dangerously, profoundly self-revelatory * Andrew Roberts * Fabulously gutsy and revealing memoir (Daily Mail memoir of the year) -- Ysenda Maxtone Graham * Daily Mail * An operatic reckoning -- Sarah Sands * Spectator *
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