Kathleen and Frank is a love story set in the glory days of the British Empire, the last decades before World War I
It is the story of Christopher Isherwood’s parents, the winsome and lively daughter of a successful wine merchant and the reticent, artistically gifted soldier-son of a country squire. They met in 1895 outside a music rehearsal in an army camp and married in 1903 after Christopher’s father returned from the Boer War. Frank was killed in an assault near Ypres in 1915; Kathleen remained a widow for the rest of her life.
Their story is told through letters and Kathleen’s diary, with connecting commentary by Isherwood. Kathleen and Frank is a family memoir, but it is also a richly detailed social history of a period of striking change— Queen Victoria’s funeral, Blériot’s flight across the English Channel, Sarah Bernhardt’s Hamlet, suffragettes, rising hemlines, the beginning of the Troubles in Ireland—the period that shaped Isherwood himself.
As a young man, Isherwood fled the tragedy that engulfed his parents’ lives and threatened his own; in Kathleen and Frank, he reweaves the tapestry of family and heritage and places himself in the pattern.