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Books

Memoir 'Kiss Myself Goodbye' Dims the Brightest Subject

Georgie Johnson, 1960s (Used by permission of Charles Donovan)

Ferdinand Mount's gripping family memoir, Kiss Myself Goodbye, paints a calamitous picture of one of its supporting characters, Georgie. But I knew her closely for over 40 years. She not only transcended tragedy but helped me do the same.

Kiss Myself Goodbye:The Many Lives of Aunt Munca
​Ferdinand Mount

Bloomsbury

October 2020


Sometimes, a book aims such a blow to the guts I have to put it down and come back to it after a few deep breaths. Kiss Myself Goodbye:The Many Lives of Aunt Munca (Bloomsbury) is Ferdinand Mount's account of the extraordinary life of his aunt by marriage. It has had a semi-debilitating effect not only on me but, by all accounts, other readers as well. After the second chapter, I took a deep breath that lasted a fortnight. The ordeals suffered by Georgie, Munca's adopted daughter, are so painful to absorb, I couldn't go on without shoring up more resilience.

To give you the premise, the author's uncle, Greig Mount, was from a prominent English family with a new hereditary knighthood. Greig's wife was a flamboyant character named Betty, aka 'Munca'. Nearing middle-age, they married in haste because both were running from things and had sharp instincts for the main chance. Munca sought refuge from a mysterious, secret past, Greig from the threat of the revelation of his true sexuality. And it worked. Rather than catching them up, their shadowy histories were miraculously suspended.

Their coupling, based on fellow feeling and expediency rather than true passion, endured to the death. For a pair who wished for some of their behaviours to fly beneath the radar, they were curiously gaudy, flaunting their money in a manner unusual among men of Greig's social bracket. And the source of their riches was never fully apparent, though they seemed to come from Munca. They moved through a succession of grand houses in the British Home Counties, living what appeared to be the high life.

Smoke by werner22brigitte (Pixabay License / Pixabay)

In the 1940s, they adopted an infant they named Serena Georgeanne, known as Georgie, raising her to believe she was their biological child. They expected perfection of this child. She was an extension of themselves rather than a person in her own right; a mannequin to titivate and then put in service to their public image. They inculcated in Georgie the belief that there was no point in doing anything if she couldn't do it to an unimpeachable standard. Of course, given how captious they were, this was impossible for her. The bitter irony, however, was that she was brighter, more witty, more stunning than they were.

Munca had a habit of reproving little Georgie using physical violence. Her insistence on perfection went so far as to force Georgie through an unwanted rhinoplasty before she'd reached adulthood. Among the ordeals they put her through was to adopt another child when Georgie was seven. This time, the adoption was arranged openly. A delighted Georgie bonded with her new sister, Celeste. But after a year, the Mounts decided Celeste's face didn't fit and returned her like a faulty appliance. She was never spoken of again and there is no evidence her fate caused so much as a split-second of conscience-pricking for Munca and Greig, though for Georgie (and presumably, Celeste) it was devastating. What's strikingly unusual about the Mounts' cruelty is how it was all conducted with a kind of frivolous flair, as if it were funny or harmless. Today, Georgie and Celeste might well be rescued by social services.

As a young, well-connected and sociable woman, Georgie began to catch the eye of famous men. Inexplicably, each time a union got anywhere near the altar, Munca and Greig stepped in to sabotage it. Georgie's engagement to the journalist, David Dimbleby, was the first of these. The couple's final stab-wound was the manner in which they let Georgie know the truth of her provenance -- via documents left behind after they died. They had obviously given it great thought and decided that it was best if the truth came out once they were no longer there to answer questions.

As if that weren't unkindness enough, the terms of their will were perversely unpleasant, tying Georgie to them permanently while saying, quite unequivocally, 'you were never loved'. All the money was put into a trust, to accrue interest until Georgie's death, at which point it would all go to animal charities. Georgie was permitted to prostrate herself before the trustees for scraps for the rest of her life. It was as if they'd parked a vast, caged diamond before her, permitting her to hack at it with a toothpick once a year.

Their will was the one way in which the Mounts might have said 'sorry' to Georgie, but -- astoundingly -- they appear not to have felt that they had anything for which to say sorry. Furthermore, they had clearly primed the trustees to operate against Georgie's best interests. This process of making a request to the trust was so arduous and frightening for Georgie, it may have hastened her death.

Betty 'Munca' Mount and Greig Mount (from the cover of Kiss Me Goodbye)

The clear statement of lovelessness in their will was perhaps the first instance of the Mounts not lying to Georgie. It's also the starting point for Ferdinand Mount's astonishing investigation. Through detective work, genealogical research, and a few strokes of luck, Mount makes a series of jaw-dropping discoveries. While Georgie's adoption was the first of the Mounts' deceptions to surface, it was merely one of an intergenerational network of falsehoods spun by Munca and then given succour by Greig. They were driven by many factors. Primary among them were obfuscation of the past and the acquisition of status and money.

Mount is a brilliant writer; observant, perceptive and gently droll. Delving into Munca's past, he has managed to find the answer to each mystery. He has even located the puzzle pieces that explain why the Mounts couldn't risk Georgie having a high-profile marriage. With each page, a new revelation about Munca's lying emerges. I won't give away any more of the twists and turns. By the time Georgie came along, Mr. and Mrs. Mount had locked themselves into a self-perpetuating psychodrama of dishonesty that seemed to make them happy, no matter the consequences for innocent parties.

Of course, people are more complex than 'good' or 'bad'. Some of the unearthed secrets partly explain why Munca was the way she was. There are moments when the reader almost roots for her as she constructs one deception after another with a dizzying panache. And although she's driven by acquisitiveness and the desire for riches and status, she's also propelled by a more understandable self-preservation. Less clear is why Greig would ever have been party to something that harmed a child.

Here is where I should disclose a personal interest. Georgie was my Godmother. By that I don't mean someone who organised an outing once a year and sent a Christmas card. I mean someone who joined my parents in loving me profoundly and taking on responsibility for my development. I didn't expect to be mentioned in Mount's book. I'm not important and I'm certainly not important to the story. But then, right at the end, came two scenes at which I was present.

As I read on, I noticed that these scenes had been described in meticulous detail, but I'd been erased from them. Georgie was one remove away from a birth-parent to me. Indeed, she was far more a mother to me than Munca ever was to her. Imagine reading a book about a mother-figure in your life, describing with painstaking precision occasions where you were present but excising you from them. It stung. I was startled that Mount would do something so improper. When two people telephoned me to say they'd noticed the same thing, I realised my reaction wasn't just down to bruised ego and pettiness.

I wondered if it was an oversight or just indifference. But on both occasions, I had sat next to Mount. I shared a car journey with him and he was kind enough to buy me a drink. We chatted. I was not in the background. I wondered if my exclusion in the book might because more than once I've written about Georgie, likening the circumstances of her adoption to those of theatre historian,Charles Duff, whose aristocrat parents acquired him as part of an image-making, sexuality-concealing endeavour. (See "How it feels to ... be outed at boarding school", Charles Donovan The Sunday Times, 4 June 2017) Or could it be, since I'm the only person to have had an unbroken relationship with Georgie spanning four decades, I'm threatening? No -- Mount didn't strike me as someone who would resent another's closeness to his cousin. He seems to have loved Georgie very deeply despite a schism that ended their relationship decades ago. Whatever the case, I want to place myself in Georgie's life. Our love counted for something

And I also want to offer a different perspective. The Georgie of Mount's book is a broken, tragic alcoholic with what Mount calls, more than once, a 'ruined life'. It makes for gripping prose, but the Georgie I knew for 40 years was ebullient, fun-loving, bright, and cheerful. There was almost always a humorous glint in her eyes. Yes, she was complicated, but who isn't?

What Georgie had gone through had a terrible impact on her development but, like so many traumatised people, she'd found a way to transcend it. And the more she sought distance from the Mounts, the more she became herself. Because she was forced to act throughout her upbringing, some of Georgie's natural, spontaneous reactions had disappeared. She had to make a kind of snorting noise to signify laughter. Her real laugh rarely surfaced. This was an affliction I could recognise.

After some extreme school experiences, my spontaneity had become similarly impaired. I could no longer cry. Most of the time this isn't a problem, but it bothers me during bereavements, when a cry might help me process things. I also had a false laugh because my real one was so elusive. Watching comedies with friends is still awkward because they often assume I'm not enjoying myself as I try to explain, "I laugh on the inside". But this sign of Georgie's damage -- the diminished affect compensated for by faked affect -- would have escaped most people. Only in the final handful of years did it become more obvious.

The ordeals visited on her by the Mounts seemed finally to catch up with her and she retreated into herself. Her tongue became sharper and it was much easier to fall out with her. I didn't fall out with her, but many of her friends did, and often it wasn't clear to them what they'd done to be out of favour. One sure way of ending your relationship with Georgie was to express pity towards her or to let slip, even subtly or unintentionally, that you felt sorry for her. Another was to be intrusive. Georgie was happy to confide in friends and to talk about her life, but it had to be done of her volition, never at the bidding of others. She would almost certainly bridle at her depiction in Kiss Myself Goodbye as a vacant vessel, half-dead at 20.

In fact, it was after 20 that Georgie came alive, having achieved a measure of separation from the Mounts. She married Claude Johnson, owner of a computer company. My parents, Meg and Hugh, were at the wedding and later introduced Georgie and Claude to another couple, the artist, Andre de Moller and his wife, June. Everyone was within walking distance in the London borough of Westminster -- my parents on West Halkin Street in Belgravia, Georgie and Claude in Marylebone and Andre and June on Cadogan Square in Knightsbridge. It was the late '60s/early '70s and London was the most fun it had ever been.

For the first time, Georgie wasn't a marionette. She began living a life that wasn't stage-managed and set up to fail by Munca and Greig. The love of her friends enabled her to bloom as a real person. It was a time of strolling to the West End for Saturday matinees and then out for drinks, of meeting after work and convulsing into fits of laughter, of travelling and, thanks to their close proximity, being able to form an instant party of six whenever opportunity and inclination coincided. Georgie had found her family.

Georgie Johnson with Meg Donovan, 1971. (Photo: Hugh Donovan / used by permission of Charles Donovan)

This band of six became even closer when Georgie and Claude moved to Victoria, spitting distance from the rest of the group. Georgie would drily refer to their apartment block, Morpeth Mansions, as 'morbid mansions'. It had been chosen for them by Munca, who brooked no disagreements and did not invite collaboration in the decision-making. Georgie increasingly gravitated towards my mother, whose warmth, stable temperament, and lack of artifice must have struck her as a wonderful novelty. Every time Georgie was expecting a baby, she asked my mother to be the Godparent. But every time, she miscarried. So when, in 1973, their situations were reversed and my mother was expecting, there was only one choice in her mind for Godparent: Georgie.

From the moment of my birth in 1974 until her death, Georgie was the person to whom I was closest, after my parents. It was Georgie my father called from Westminster Hospital in 1974, to say, 'You're a Godmother'. Georgie dashed from Victoria to be at my mother's bedside, meeting me when I was three hours old. When we moved from central London to Fulham, in search of more space, Georgie and Claude followed. One of my earliest memories is of Georgie arriving at our house. I can't have been more than three or four. "Look who's here," I remember my mother saying. "It's Georgie, your Godmother." "Georgie's not my Godmother," I said, quite confidently. "She's my friend." I didn't yet understand that people could be more than one thing and if it was a choice between 'godmother' and 'friend', then Georgie was 'friend'. I think she realised in that moment that she'd been subtly upgraded because she never forgot it, recalling it right up to the weeks before her death.

Kiss Myself Goodbye makes Georgie and Claude's relationship sound slight and short-lived. In fact, it lasted the best part of ten years; they would part only to discover how much they missed each other's company. I remember seeing them together right up until 1980, when I was six. In Kiss Myself Goodbye, Mount notes that Claude's family was not ennobled -- but to Georgie, who didn't have a social-climbing bone in her body, that couldn't have mattered less. Georgie sought friends from all kinds of backgrounds.

No one took Godmotherly responsibilities more seriously than Georgie. Not only was she at every school play and every childhood birthday party, she lavished me with exquisitely-wrapped presents, wrote the world's best, funniest letters and emails, and organised theatre, restaurant, and cinema trips. More years than not, she joined us for Christmas and/or Boxing Day. She frequently took charge of my understanding of language, going far beyond the realm of correct or incorrect grammar, pointing out things that were technically permissible but, to her mind, inelegant. When I talked of taking 'tablets', she'd say, "tablets are slabs of stone with writing on them. You mean 'pills'." I savoured every correction. Georgie had ways of describing things that opened up places in my mind I hadn't known were there.

There are times when it's impossible for children to go to their parents with a problem, even very loving parents like mine. This is when, if they're lucky, they go to a Godparent instead. Godparents can see a child's predicament objectively. Georgie was there at those moments. She lifted me up and filled me with confidence in my abilities.

When I was 21, I came out to her by letter. I was terrified. I had been deeply wounded by being outed at school, twice. I was part of the Section 28 generation, unable to go to any authority figure with my worries about being gay in a country that openly hated gay people. Under Margaret Thatcher, the gay liberation gains made in the '70s were gradually reversed, to the point where the government and the newspapers that supported it were starting to agitate for the re-criminalisation of homosexuality. After I was outed at 16, with disastrous consequences, every self-preserving fibre in me rallied and I 'inned' myself permanently so as to survive.

But then, five years on, a relationship forced my hand and keeping it a secret was killing me. I had never come out to anyone before and I worked on the assumption that everyone was homophobic unless they clearly and repeatedly indicated otherwise without being prompted. It was a nerve-shredding way to live, never allowing myself to relax or to trust. I posted my coming-out letter to Georgie and braced myself. Just 48 hours later, she replied, "Darling, I've been trying to drag you out of the closet since you were 12." It remains the perfect example of how Georgie's frequent acts of love and kindness were never untethered to humour. After years of torment, a lightness rushed into my heart and I was walking on air.

Now and again, the way in which Georgie's parents had barred her from normal formative experiences would become apparent. It had been hard for her to make friends at school because of the strange things Greig and Munca did to mark her out as separate. It mortified her to be taken out of boarding school by limousine once a week to have her hair professionally washed, treated, and styled at the age of 11, inviting envy and mockery among class-mates. It makes it all the more impressive that she grew up to be an adult who knew the difference between surface and substance.

After Munca died, Georgie told my mother she'd never before been allowed to decorate her own home and needed help -- she didn't know how to do it. My mother guided her through the decorating of her flat in Fulham and then her first two houses in Suffolk. Gradually, the things that had been stifled to dormancy by her parents began to flourish -- her own tastes, her own sense of style, her own ideas.

Her creative ambitions had also been suffocated to near-death by her upbringing. She was the best writer I've ever known, but the lethal self-doubt inculcated by Munca and Greig proved insurmountable. Sometimes, friends would build her up enough that she'd start regarding herself as competent. At some point in the '80s, she told my mother and I about the novel she was writing. It was to be called The Social Worker. Anyone who's ever tried it knows that the most undermining thing you can say to someone writing long-form is, 'Have you nearly finished yet?'. So we left it to her to give us updates, but they petered out. I still wonder where that manuscript might be.

It is the easiest thing in the world to break children -- and Georgie was dealt incalculable damage by her adoptive mother and father. At every turn, Munca prized self-preservation over Georgie's prosperity -- the absolute reverse of the parental instinct. But Georgie was not a tragic figure living a ruined life. Through the '70s, '80s, '90s and part of the '00s, Georgie loved life and loved people. She had romances and saw new and old friends. Before she left London for Suffolk, she would come to us for Sunday lunches and we to hers. There were theatre trips, cinema trips, multiple New Years' Eves, walks around Chiswick House, strolls at the Hurlingham Club in Fulham.

My teenage friends loved her, partly because she was so interested in them and so un-snooty about pop culture, always happy to chat about the new acts she'd seen on The Chart Show and other music programmes, and always up for discussing genre fiction, especially crime novels. I loved introducing my friends to her and then sitting back and watching them fall in love. I'd want to pinch myself, revelling in my good fortune at having Georgie in my life, someone who shone so generously she made other people shine. When she moved to Suffolk, the two of us would go to the Aldeburgh Festival, walk on the beach, and sit in companionable silence in the evenings, she with her crosswords and I with a book. We'd take turns to select which music to listen to and relish being together, her cat wedged between us.

It is to her credit that she only began to withdraw after a health ordeal hit her hard. As soon as Georgie told me about her oral cancer diagnosis, I came to her side. She was understandably terrified of an operation that was going to remove parts of her face. I came to stay again, just before the surgery, for moral support. Although the surgeons left her with only a faint scar and some damage to the inside of her mouth, she took it badly. It had a slight but noticeable effect on her diction. After all that childhood conditioning about perfection, no wonder what seemed like a miraculous recovery to her friends was nothing of the sort to her. When we spent Christmas 2007 together, she didn't want to eat in front of me, because the damage to her mouth made eating a more ungainly process. Eventually, she began skipping eating altogether, subsisting on build-up drinks.

One morning in 2010, an email arrived from her. I probably grinned as I clicked it open, imagining all the funny things she'd write in her tart, humorous, beautifully constructed sentences. Instead, she wrote that she was intending to stay indoors doing cryptic crosswords until she died, and that this might be the last we heard from her. The tone was calm, matter-of-fact. She was letting people know, she said, so that they wouldn't worry. It was one of the strangest emails I've ever received. I knew that the worst thing to do, the thing most likely to annoy Georgie, was to write back full of concern and fuss, so I replied just conveying my love.

Fortunately, not only did she reconsider, but I was able to resume visits. We continued sharing frequent telephone calls, emails, and letters. On my 40th, a cheque arrived -- Georgie was the most generous person I've ever known. Somehow, she always managed to find a way around the restrictions of her parents' trust, so that she could be kind to the people she loved. And her spirit of fun also endured.

In the final three years of her life, her inclination to have guests diminished and she moved our relationship to the telephone and computer. My reliability was becoming mercurial because, like Georgie a couple of decades earlier, I'd gone into recovery from alcohol and drugs. Unlike her, I kept relapsing. It was something we were able to talk about. Georgie couldn't tolerate AA because of what she felt was its group-think anti-intellectualism, its traces of evangelism and moral rearmament, while I found it was the only thing that had helped me join one sober day to the next.

I last spoke to Georgie about a fortnight before she died. Years before, she had given me the 'password' to get through to her -- something only disclosed to an ever-decreasing inner circle. You dialled, let it ring for one beat, hung up and then immediately redialled.

The pain of what her adoptive family had put her through bore down on her more heavily at this point in her life. After years of successfully outrunning the anguish, it was as if, now that she was slowing down, it was catching up. I'd sent her an electronic cigarette -- not in a prim, finger-wagging way, but because vaping was my latest passion and I thought it was worth her giving it a try -- she must have been smoking over a pack a day of 20 real ones by then. She told me she'd found the e-cig a bit confusing and that it made her cough in an odd way. It sounded like she hadn't quite got the hang of it. We laughed insofar as we were able to laugh.

Georgie Johnson with Charles Donovan, 1975 (Photo: Hugh Donovan / used by permission of Charles Donovan)

In these final telephone calls – we had several that year – the way she said, 'I love you' was different. It had a new emphasis I couldn't put my finger on at the time. Now, I realise it was a kind of finality. She must have known she was fading. In the past, she'd spoken frankly to me about her health -- the oral cancer, the chronic under-eating -- only to bounce back. I must have assumed we had another ten years at least.

So it hurts to be written out of her funeral. I had inklings that something strange was afoot when I was there. It was presented as a fait accompli -- the speakers had already been chosen. I would have loved to have said something -- particularly because I was one of the only people who bridged multiple eras, being an intimate of Georgie's across five decades. I know the possessiveness that can take hold of people at funerals and weddings. I feel it too, though I react by holding back rather than pushing forward. I tell myself 'you don't need to show anyone that you were close -- it's enough just to know it yourself'. So I retreated and let others be the ones who were close to Georgie, though it left me with a twinge. Fortunately, after what was a rather impersonal and chilly gathering, five of us met a week or two later at Georgie's house where, in the garden, we held a send-off with a local priest Georgie had known. Present were the people Georgie had always mentioned most to me in her calls and letters.

Georgie's extraordinary intelligence was the real deal. There were none of the giveaways of the pseudo-intellectual -- no peppering her speech with literary quotations or Latin phrases, unless she was being arch. She spoke and wrote in the most refreshing and original bons mots and one day, when it won't overwhelm me, I'll go back over her letters and emails and marvel at her talent. No wonder her career briefly had a second wind when she became a crossword setter and found a new pool of friends in the cryptic crossword online community. Mainly, though, she found a home in the voluntary sector -- her confidence and self-belief had been too wounded to thrive in a hierarchical setting, working for bosses who would almost certainly have been less intelligent than her. Her last adventure in volunteering was to train as a Samaritan in Suffolk.

At the end of Kiss Myself Goodbye, Mount reflects that the world is kinder now -- Munca would have no need to protect herself from scandal. The whole chain of lies might not have had its starting point. And Greig might not have needed rescuing from his sexuality. Mounts writes,

"We are better now, aren't we? Yes, I think we are. Our private lives are our own. There are no public pressures not to follow our desires. In fact, there are laws and codes of practice now to protect those desires from insult or obloquy. Deviancy is a thing of the past, because there is no sexual orthodoxy to deviate from. And you would need a stony heart not to welcome most of this. Stigmas belong on flowers and not on human beings. We find it difficult to imagine...how society could have been so harsh or unforgiving."

This is a nice attitude, but it requires context: Mount was deeply embedded in the very government that considered re-criminalising homosexuality and introduced Section 28, which consigned a generation of young LGBT people to unnecessary torment, unable to seek counsel or support or help. It was the very same government that took enormous trouble to re-stigmatise parenthood outside marriage, reserving its harshest criticisms for single mothers rather than fathers. The idea that such cruelties now lie beyond his imagination is, for me, a suspension of disbelief too far.

It's a tweedy mindset which attributes the positive changes in society to unkind people becoming kinder and censorious people becoming more accepting. It dismisses the decades of activism that took place in the face of daunting conservative hostility. The Thatcher government created a cartoon villain -- the absurd stereotype of the 'looney lefty' teacher, hellbent on converting everyone's infants into sex-crazed gays and lesbians -- in order to justify its uncommonly nasty bigotry. Today, many conservatives like to say how lovely it is that we're all kinder. But when that kindness was first proposed, they blocked its path.

If there really is nothing wrong with being gay, then why is the light Mount shines on his uncle's secrets so much kinder and more sparing than that shone on his aunt's? Without explicitly stating it, he gives the impression that Greig's gay scandal was some kind of one-off. Georgie spoke very little about her upbringing and even less about her adoptive family, but one of the few things she told me was that her father was gay. No ifs or buts. He was not a straight man who just had a gay moment.

Not only do I believe her account, but it makes more sense. The idea that Greig was a heterosexual gripped just once, and only once, by a momentary and inexplicable gay compulsion, is far less plausible. Perhaps he sought 'reparative therapy' in his marriage to Munca. Who knows? But it's more likely that he was trying to conceal his sexuality than to change it. He and Munca certainly entertained large numbers of gay friends, including Liberace. Munca, who clearly thrived on intrigues and pretences, may well have been delighted to enter into a cooked-up marriage.

* * *

It's 2020, and every day, I wake up to Georgie. The first painting I see is a portrait in the style of Brueghel, a present from her in 2012. I turn in another direction and there's an Augustus John and two charcoal scenes by the miner-turned-painter Tom McGuinness she gave to me in the 1990s. As I dress, my hands flick over the rack where I keep Greig's Hermès and Dior ties, passed to me by Georgie after his death. Georgie told me that when Greig wore them in public, he would flip them over to make sure that anyone nearby saw the expensive labels. Below the ties are the diamond cuff-links originally belonging to Georgie's Godfather. The next level down lie the handkerchiefs she sent me in 2013. My bookshelves groan with her presents, accumulated since my childhood, including a full set of Samuel Pepys' diaries.

Also on the shelves is a photograph of Georgie at about eight years old. She does look haunted. None of the gaiety, confidence, or spontaneity of childhood is apparent. Instead, her expression seems to ask: 'Am I doing this right?' Her hair has been glossed into perfect, golden ringlets more appropriate for a Moulin Rouge attraction than a child. There was nothing wrong with her original nose. Why on earth did Munca arrange that operation, saddling Georgie with an implausible story about falling over, which she had to recite if anyone recognised the tell-tale, too-perfect symmetry of the nose-job. Fortunately, before their friendship broke down, my father photographed Georgie across four decades -- images that show her at her happiest.

Georgie knew that if something was precious to her, it had to be kept away from her 'family', so I never met her parents. My mother describes Greig as 'gentle', and gentleness is an admirable quality. But when it's corrupted, 'gentle' becomes 'biddable'. With more resolve, perhaps Greig might have mitigated some of Munca's cruelties to Georgie or thought about correcting the final one: the will.

With none of what I write, do I intend to take anything away from Kiss Myself Goodbye. It's exceptional -- and it's hard to imagine anyone not enjoying it. But if readers are going to meet Ferdinand Mount's Georgie, the broken mannequin, then I'd like them also to meet my Georgie, the sparkling, smiling, caring, loyal, life-loving, and generous friend. She didn't feel short-changed by life. She told me she'd done almost everything she wanted to do, had all the travel, learning, sex, friendship, culture, and romance anyone could want. I suspect she might have chosen a different family, one that could have given her a soft place to land. But she never complained. Georgie wasn't just a Godmother; she was a fairy Godmother, someone who swept in at just the right moments, bringing magic, joy, consolation, and happiness to my life for 41 years. She had more love to give than anyone I've ever known.

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