Dressed for War works on many levels: as an evocation of an uncommon time; as a celebration of an uncommon woman; as pure, unalloyed fun. I'll leave you with the story that when a former colleague visited Withers in the final decade of her life, she found the nonagenarian dressed in a raspberry-coloured lounge suit, an act of dauntlessness for which I couldn't possibly love her more.
A great deal of this rather too long book is drawn from what Summers describes (in her afterword) as “without doubt the most exciting find of my research career”: a box containing 900 typed office memos from “Withers to Chase” and “Chase to Withers” that went back and forth across the Atlantic during those 20 years. That’s two and a half million words of office memos. Very exciting to Summers, but sometimes not quite so exciting for us, who have to read in detail about such non-events as Daphne du Maurier being given a two-year free subscription to thank her for writing a piece, and how many features a year Elizabeth David should do for Vogue and how many for House & Garden (final decision after 250 memos: ten for each).