Bettina’s Take: Ivana Lowell's Book Launch Luncheon

Ivana Lowell

I am fortunate to have many friends who write books. Some of these books are better than others, but for the most part they range from mildly amusing to utterly enthralling. Ivana Lowell's book, Why Not Say What Happened?, is definitely the latter.

I sat down with the intention of casually perusing it for 15 minutes, and a few hours later I emerged, mesmerized, moved, astonished that Ivana could write so uplifting a book about her life—a life fraught with family tragedy, addiction, abuse, and neglect, all hidden under the veneer of the English aristocracy and the glamour of the bohemian elite.

Ivana's mother, Lady Caroline Blackwood, was an accomplished writer who married, and lived with, a string of creative powerhouses, among them Lucian Freud and Robert Lowell. Who was Ivana's father? You'll have to read the book to find out, because as one reviewer put it, it's a "genetic whodunit."

Paul Beirne hosted a lunch and discussion in honor of Ivana's book at the Alliance Bernstein offices. Quite a few of Ivana's friends and fans showed up despite the weather. I ran into Peter Duchin on the way in, and we spoke of what to read next.

"You want to read something great?" he asked. "Read Dickens or Thackeray."

I asked if he thought Ivana's book was as good as Dickens.

"Ivana's is better. She is incredibly honest and candid, sometimes shockingly so."

Other guests agreed.

"I ordered it for 10 friends on Amazon after I read it," said Kamie Lightburn. "I was reading it in Costa Rica, and Joan Rivers approached me to tell me how much she had enjoyed it."

Ivana read a couple of chapters, bringing to life her wit and sense of humor in the face of several soul-crushing situations. Despite its difficult subject, the book never once feels heavy handed or betrays an ounce of self-pity.

The guests, including Christopher Mason, Ashton Hawkins, James Reginato, Judy Auchincloss, and Howard Blum (whose book The Floor of Heaven comes out in April) listened intently as Ivana described the cathartic experience of writing in the house in Sag Harbor that her mother had left her.

"I was close to my mother," she explained. "I could sense she wasn't going to be with us for long when I was a child."

Now that the book has been written, she no longer needs to dwell on her sadness and says, "It's something for my daughter to read when she's older and strong enough."

Well done, Ivana. We look forward to the next book.

Photo: Ivana Lowell