In the autumn of 1962 one of the world's greatest story-tellers scandalized the world by attacking his dead wife, Syrie, in his memoirs, Looking Back.
Somerset Maugham did so without a hint of his own gross misconduct - he had carried on a passionate affair with Gerald Haxton, for whom he deserted his wife almost as soon as they had married.
To the astonishment of Syrie's many friends, no reason has ever been given for this cowardly attack on a woman who had shared twelve years of marriage with him, and who had continued to love him until she died in 1955.
In his quest for answer to this strange mystery, Gerald McKnight introduces us to new aspects of Syrie's crowded life: her fabulous Chelsea and Le Touqeut parties, her great career in London, Paris, New York, Chicago and Hollywood.
He follows her from childhood days to her brief, disastrous marriage to Sir Henry Wellcome, and to the fiasco of her love affairs with Gordon Selfridge and others.
And finally, tragically, with Maugham.
What did prompt Maugham, the 'gentleman author', to write to venomously about Dr Barnado's daughter whose unique decorating talents had inspired a revolution in style on both sides of the Atlantic?
In this portrait of her life, created with the help of Syrie's family and friends, including Dame Rebecca West, Sir Cecil Beaton and the late Oliver Messel, Gerald McKnight investigates the scandal of Syrie's vain battle to on to the love of Somersert Maugham.