From Publishers Weekly
For those who enjoy reading about travel and life abroad, this enormously entertaining social history of the female side of diplomatic life is a must. The author, herself the daughter of a diplomat, closely observed her mother's 28 years on the road. Drawing on published memoirs, letters, diaries, interviews and personal reminiscences, Hickman's (A Trip to the Light Fantastic: Travels with a Mexican Circus) written account ranges from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Organizing her anecdotes around various aspects of the diplomatic life, such as "getting there," "private lives," and "hardships," rather than by time period, the author contrasts the experiences of individual women (although it is occasionally difficult to keep track of who's who). When her husband was posted to Teheran in 1849, Mary Sheil discovered that she was virtually confined to the luxurious but isolated British residence. On the other hand, Harriet Granville, whose husband was posted to Paris in the 1820s, found herself devoting most of her time to diplomatic ceremonies. Many of the women had to cope with either unfamiliar food or a severe lack of food. Miss Tully (first name unknown) left letters describing the effects of pestilence and famine on her life in 1784 Tripoli. Often women were placed in danger by their position, for example Veronica Atkinson, whose family was caught up in the Romanian Revolution of 1989. Feelings of homesickness and other difficulties were common, yet Hickman presents most of the wives as enjoying adventurous lives that she describes as "quite exciting really."