Nell: The Australian Heiress Who Saved her husband from Stalin & the Nazis by Susanna De Vries

Susanna De Vries biography on Nell Kerensky (nee’ Tritton) is a must-read, bringing to life this fascinating woman and the adventurous life she led.

Nell Tritton (1899-1946) was born in Brisbane, Australia and was the daughter of successful businessman Fred Tritton and his wife Leila. Despite their privileged upbringing, the eldest four of the six Tritton children had grown up drinking water from a lead lined water tank and pipes which permanently weakened their immune systems. The deaths of her Nell’s older siblings Charles and Lillian during the 1918-1920 influenza epidemic significantly impacted her outlook on life, and knowing she may not live long made her make the most of the time she had.

Nell flipped the script on what was expected of her, and rather than settling down she became a rally driving champion and pioneering journalist and writer. She moved to Paris in her late 20s after being inspired by the diary of Marie Bakshirtskeff, a Russian emigrant who had resided in Paris in the 1800s. Paris is where Nell’s adventure truly begins, and it was here she met Alexander Kerensky the ex-Prime Minister of Russia and foe of some of the biggest villains of the 20th century: Stalin and Hitler.  

The book takes you on the whirlwind journey that was Nell’s life, and it makes for addictive reading. Nell lived through a tumultuous period that included the First and Second World Wars, but it was her life during the interwar years that fascinated me most. Paris in the 1920s is brought into technicolour, and it was easy to envision Nell walking the streets of France’s great capital.

Susanna took four years to research and write Nell’s story, and she utilized all the sources at her disposal. This included talking to Lavinia Tritton, wife of one of Nell’s nephews, and accessing the family archive. Susanna also visited Nell’s childhood home Elderslie which provided another well of information. Another fantastic resource Susanna used was Nell’s personal diaries, although sadly Susanna was not able to access them fully as they passed into the hands of a collector who would not allow access.

This isn’t Susanna’s first biographical endeavour, and she has written about other trailblazing Australian women in Australian Heroines of World War One and Rebel Women who Changed Australia. Although Nell is a non-fiction biography it reads like a novel. It’s engaging, informative and by the end I felt I really understood Nell Kerensky and the eventful life she led.

I believe it’s important to highlight women’s stories, as for far too long they’ve been left in the margins of history.  In the case of Nell, I was disappointed but unsurprised to learn that in a 500-page tome about her husband Alexander Kerensky the biographer only dedicated one measly page to Nell, despite her noticeable impact on Alexander’s life. Susanna’s book goes some way to rectifying this situation, and bringing Nell’s life and story into the mainstream consciousness.

As Susanna writes “Nell’s heroism and generosity is an inspiration to young women everywhere” a sentiment I heartily agree with.

You can purchase the latest edited American edition of Nell on Amazon here.

Have you read Nell? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Sources

Nell: The Australian Heiress Who Saved her husband from Stalin & the Nazis by Susanna de Vries

Susann de Vries Website: http://susannadevries.com/nell-tritton-bio-susanna-de-vries.html

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