"Two girls can often do what one on her own cannot."
July 31, 2014 10:21 PM   Subscribe

British romance novelist Ida Cook (1904-1986) wrote over a hundred books for Mills & Boon under the name Mary Burchell, including the thirteen-book, opera-focused Warrender saga. The passion she and her sister, Louise Cook, shared for opera carried them across oceans and countries in the years prior to the outbreak of WWII, and when Ida took account of her writing career's financial success, she was by struck by a "terrible, moving and overwhelming thought--I could save life with it." So beginning in 1937, she and Louise helped save dozens of lives by entering Germany disguised as themselves: eccentric opera fanatics. Louise Carpenter's "Ida and Louise" looks into the lives of these two sisters, these "lives which swung dizzyingly between the purest fantasy and the utterly real."

In 1956, Ida was a guest on the first series of the British version of This is Your Life, during which some viewers claimed to witness a haunting by conductor Clemens Krauss.
posted by mixedmetaphors (6 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
This is so great, I've always been fascinated by them. Thanks for posting!
posted by fshgrl at 11:03 PM on July 31, 2014

Ida's own account of their lives is currently available on Kindle (or as a UK version)

It's out of print in physical form, but the original, shorter version We Followed Our Stars can be found second hand
posted by DanCall at 2:09 AM on August 1, 2014

Amazing story. I knew nothing about their lives. They made so much adventure for themselves without ever actually defying convention at all. Two girls can do what one cannot--indeed. The back room of my shop had half a wall of these Mills and Boon romances. They, with Harlequins, all but filled the room and was a reliable piece of business. It was a quiet place to browse and collect a supply of books, or simply sit cross-legged on the '70s orange shag carpet and read a while, hidden from the day's demands.
posted by Anitanola at 3:11 AM on August 1, 2014

This was fascinating. Thanks!
posted by julen at 7:10 AM on August 1, 2014

There should be an opera about them...
posted by Dreidl at 10:27 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

That is an extraordinary story. I wish it were possible to know more about the woman they rescued who the Granta writer interviewed in her old age.
posted by Frowner at 11:36 AM on August 1, 2014

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