Christine Odone: A Svengali's parting shot at a goddess who outgrew him
It was impossible, in 1979, to be up at Oxford and not know of Nigella Lawson. She and a group of undergraduate friends had been splashed on the cover of a magazine: the 'Bright Young Things', as it dubbed them, led a charmed existence of champagne breakfasts and fast cars. The golden youths included gorgeous nobodies like Hugh Grant, but most, like Lawson (whose father was then energy secretary under Margaret Thatcher), were the scion of important dynasties – titled, landed, or just high-profile.
Even among these stunners, Nigella stood out. Her luscious looks turned heads, but she was a scholar, too. I was a year below her and never in her set, but like everyone else there, I felt I knew her.
I'm not sure anyone really did: Nigella was wary, even back then, of revealing too much of herself. Suffering – she went on to lose first her mother and then her sister to cancer – insulated her. Later, when her husband John Diamond also died from the disease, I remember being struck by how similar Nigella was to Jackie Onassis: a glamorous but tragic young widow with two small children.