Once A Gentleman
Once A Gentleman
ONCE A GENTLEMAN is a sweeping, richly textured tale of an obsessional love affair that parallels a lost generation's coming of age in the flamboyant twenties and the sinister thirties.
When Claus von Hardenberg, an impoverished German aristocrat, is offered a free education at Cambridge, he leaps at the opportunity for all things British leads him to heartily---if foolishly--embrace the myth of the English gentleman, and to fall headlong in love with his English cousin, Lady Diana Winslow.
Time and international politics conspire to keep the lovers apart. When World War I erupts, Claus returns to his homeland to fight against the country he so recently adopted as his own, and Diana is thrust into her role as the heiress to the Winslow fortune. The fighting takes Claus to Africa where the amoral, fabulously wealthy society of the Happy Valley, awash in champagne and cocaine, fliryd with free love and fascism. Diana, who has learned to fly and whose exploits as an aviatrix and international "playgirl" have made her the toast of the continent, marries an American millionaire. But despite the dalliances with two women in Nairobi---and American emigre running her failing plantation alone in the wake of her husband's abandonment, and an Englishwoman who has managed to withstand the allure of the Happy Valley set---Claus remains steadfastly loyal to his obsession with Diana.
As the world is sucked into the vortex of World War II, Claus's romantic illusions begin to crumble when his cousins---even the golden Diana---align themselves with the corruption overtaking Germany. The violent outcome of an airplane race across the skies of Africa, in which Diana is the favorite to win, lays bare her final secret and frees Claus, at last, from his obsession with her and the myth of the English gentleman.