A poignant biography of Edwina Mountbatten, a woman known for her glamorous friends, glittering prizes, and attainments, but one apparently born too early to fulfill her considerable abilities. British writer Morgan is the author of Agatha Christie (1985). Granddaughter of one of the richest men in England, and related by marriage not only to the British royal family but to half the crowned heads of Europe, Edwina Mountbatten, nÇe Cassel, should have had the most sublime of lives--and in many ways she did. Married at 20 to Lord Louis Mountbatten, uncle of the duke of Edinburgh and a descendant of Queen Victoria, she was a close friend of royalty. Her grandfather's fortune enabled her to lead a life of conspicuous consumption: town and country houses; frequent and far-flung travel; the finest of clothes and jewelry. In 1947, she became the last vicereine of India, the real jewel in the imperial crown, as her husband negotiated Indian independence. But there was, of course, a darker side: Her mother, who died young, had neglected her; her father was affectionate but weak; her stepmother unkind; the life she was expected to lead too superficial; and the marriage to Louis a disappointment. World War II and India provided the first opportunities to use her extensive talents, which were widely recognized, but these experiences made her dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life. Only a close but platonic relationship with Nehru, who admired and respected her intelligence, gave any joy in the last years of her life. Parties, lovers, travels, and family history are all fully detailed here, but Mountbatten herself remains elusive, though Morgan does demonstrate how stifling and destructive high society was to these women doomed to be rich and idle despite their intelligence. More informative than analytical, then, but a good read nonetheless.