Eloise Grows Up: The Charmed Life of the Charming Rosamond Bernier

Like that clever, witty, audacious inhabitant of the Plaza Hotel, the notorious children’s book heroine Eloise, Rosamond Bernier acquits herself in every situation, no matter how extraordinary, with a grand measure of aplomb. Zelig style, Bernier cruised through the greater part of the twentieth century hobnobbing with the western hemisphere’s best and brightest artists, writers, and composers while building her own successful career as writer, editor, and art curator. Accurately described as “a scrapbook,” her memoir is a motley collection of anecdotal snapshots, genteel and tantalizing, of her dear friends and acquaintances, among them Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, Malcolm Lowry, Paul and Jane Bowles, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Henri Mattise, René Clair, Vittorio De Sica, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Max Ernst, Mary McCarthy, Louise Bourgeois, David Hockney, Jerome Robbins, Janet Flanner, Philip Johnson, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn.

Bernier was born in 1916 to an English mother and a Jewish American father whose family never forgave him for marrying a non-Jew, and would have little to do with Rosamond. She was brought up in the Philadelphia suburbs as if to the manor born with riding lessons and an English governess to educate her at home. When she was ten, by herself she boarded the Orduna and crossed the Atlantic to England where she would attend The Sherbourne School for Girls, as her mother, who had died two years earlier, had wished. After attending Sarah Lawrence for three years, she married Lew Riley (first husband of three), and moved to Acapulco. Barely five pages into the book the aptness of Bernier’s title, Some of My Lives, becomes apparent: by the age of twenty she had already lived several lifetimes, and her life had barely begun.

Click here to read the rest of my column at Bookslut

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