Odette Keun was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul), the daughter of a Dutch diplomat, with mixed Dutch, French, Italian and Greek origins. Her family's first language was French and she was educated by an English nanny. After her father's death in 1902, when she was 13, she spent three years in a Roman Catholic boarding school in the Netherlands and two years as a novice nun in France. After she left the convent, she traveled widely in Europe and Bolshevik Russia. She wrote about her experiences in Russia, including having been arrested by the Cheka, in Sous Lénine: Notes d'une femme deporte en Russie par les Anglais (1922). Between 1924 and 1933, she was the lover of H.G. Wells, with whom she lived in Lou Pidou, a house they built together in Grasse, France. In the early 1930s, she recognized the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and called other liberals "spineless" for failing to stand up to Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin. She was the author of numerous nonfiction works including I Discover the English (1934) and A Foreigner Looks at the T.V.A. (1937). See also her biography by Monique Reintjes, Odette Keun (2004), published in Tbilisi, Georgia.