Ivana Lowell’s star rises with memoir about Guinness clan

By Laurie Bennett

December 27, 2010 at 8:10am

Until publication of her memoirs, Ivana Lowell was a rather obscure member of a well-known family.

Her mother, Caroline Blackwood, was a novelist and heir to the Guinness brewing fortune whose many husbands included the poet Robert Lowell and the painter Lucian Freud, grandson of Sigmund Freud.

The much-photographed fashionista Daphne Guinness is her cousin. Actor Julian Sands (Gothic, A Room with a View) is her brother-in-law.

Reviews of Why Not Say What Happened? are generally unenthusiastic. The opening line (”I have recently started going to a new shrink”) serves as a warning. Far too many pages are devoted to rehab, a subject that needs no further confessional literature. Yet the title is supported with delicious inside information.

Lowell’s memories are beyond the reach of most readers: Her grandmother having tete-a-tetes with the queen mother; trying awkwardly to converse with actor Alec Guinness, who emphasized he was no relation; reading aloud with Robert Lowell his translation of Phaedra.

The New York Times has described the memoir as “a genetic whodunit.”

Her mother had so many lovers and spouses that Lowell didn’t know the identity of her father until adulthood. It was not Robert Lowell, but screenwriter Ivan Moffat.

Hers was a life of privilege and tragedy - a story that would seem to support the widespread belief in a Guinness curse.

Lowell was abused by a nanny’s husband when she was 6, and suffered severe burns over the lower part of her body in a childhood accident. Like her mother, she has struggled with alcoholism. A sister died of a drug overdose.

Yet Lowell manages to be more level-headed than many younger-generation celebs. The curse of the famous family, she writes, “is a handy way to excuse generations of entitlement, self-indulgence and general bad behavior.”

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