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Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 [Kindle Edition]

Virginia Nicholson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

'Racy, vivacious, warm-hearted. Offers an illuminating and well-researched portrait of life among the artists, a century ago' TLS

Subversive, eccentric and flamboyant, the artistic community in the first half of the twentieth century were ingaged in a grand experiment.

The Bohemians ate garlic and didn't always wash; they painted and danced and didn't care what people thought. They sent their children to co-ed schools; explored homosexuality and Free Love. They were often drunk, broke and hungry but they were rebels.

In this fascinating book Virginia Nicholson examines the way the Bohemians refashioned the way we live our lives.

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Product Description

About the Author

Virginia Nicholson is the granddaughter of Vanessa Bell. A freelance journalist and researcher, she is Deputy Chairman of The Charleston Trust. Her first book was Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden. Virginia Nicholson lives in Sussex.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars utterly charming 19 Nov. 2008
I picked this up from one of those 'XXX recommends" from Waterstones and I'm so glad I did. This is a wonderful, fresh and very readable look at bohemia at the turn of the century. It's fascinating how much of the way we live now was influenced by handful of brave people who were prepared to try another way of living in the face of severe disapproval from the stuffy Victorians and Edwardians. I was particularly taken by the bravery of the women, who had so much to lose by not getting married, eschewing the status quo and so on - whilst still being treated in a very paternalistic manner (ie it may have been a new way of living but the women were still expected to do the cooking, cleaning and to be the ones to give up their art for the sake of a family). But it does seem to have been hard on the kids, and I do echo the previous reviewers comments about Eric Gill: Ms Nicholson suggests that having their father have sex with them didn't do the children any harm... Hmm, a little too wide-eyed about her subject methinks.

When I say it's very readable I really mean it: I'm quite lazy when it comes to books, probably reading two 'easy books' (like chick-lit) to one of 'literature', and in terms of pleasure this falls into 'easy' even though it's actually quite intellectual. Win-win!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Among the Bohemians 15 Jan. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author Virginia Nicolson is perfectly placed to write a book about the lives of Bohemian artists and writers before the Second World War - daughter of Quentin Bell and granddaughter of Vanessa Bell - she presents a sympathetic and engrossing portrait of this time, and those people, who tried to 'live for art' and rejected many of the rules society tried to impose. In this book she discusses what a bohemian actually was, the romance (or squalor) of poverty, free love, the children born to these unconventional families, the arts and crafts movement, fashion, food , domesticity, travel and friendship.

Of course, living outside of the social mores of society was liberating for many but, for those who had little choice in the matter, such as the children, it was often disorderly or neglectful. Caspar John, one of Augustus John's many sons, joined the navy after a life of no restrictions. It was his way of rebelling and looking for structure and he became very successful, becoming the Admiral of the Fleet and eventually being knighted and a member of the establishment in a way that would have outraged his parents.

Much of this book seems to recount behaviour which is self indulgent and often thoughtless, other parts make you applaud the tolerance and acceptance of those outside of the norm. However, often the ideal is not perfect in reality. Free Love sounds wonderful, but jealousy could rear it's head and, for women especially, having a child outside of marriage was not acceptable in those times. As always, it was women who suffered the consequences of bringing up the children and looking after the house with men often rejecting such domesticity as beneath them.
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109 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars C'est La Vie... (de Boheme) 11 Dec. 2002
Dare I talk about breeding in a book that deals with Bohemians? Sure, why not! The author's father was Quentin Bell- writer, artist and academic...and the biographer of his aunt, Virginia Woolf. Her grandmother was the artist Vanessa Bell, who was Virginia Woolf's sister. With bloodlines like that, you'd expect Virginia Nicholson to finish "in the money" with this subject...and she doesn't disappoint. I think the family connection has helped her to be more charitable and sympathetic than a dispassionate observer might be concerning the behavior of the Bohemians. Where some people might only find childishness, selfishness and irresponsibility (and Ms. Nicholson can see these traits as well), the author can see nobler things. She can see the ability to think independently, to believe that Art and Truth and Beauty are worth devoting your life to.....and to have the courage of your convictions by doing just that- no matter what the cost. Many of the people described in this book did not possess first-class talent, but they still gave it their best shot. They had little money, they often were hungry and cold, and they spent their lifetimes being rejected by the mainstream. They didn't have to live that way...they chose a way of life that had those consequences. Ms. Nicholson's achievement is to get you to respect, if not to admire, these people...rather than to laugh at them or think them foolish. The book has been put together in a very creative fashion. Rather than just make the book a collection of anecdotes, Ms. Nicholson has come up with an interesting theme for each chapter. Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely loved this book 15 July 2011
By Fay
One of my all time favourites. I have been interested in the Bohemian movement and the Bloomsbury group for some time and this book epitomized the two subjects perfectly. The settings are great, the writing is beautiful and it's just impossible to put down. Great for a real insight into how people in that movement lived. In all the squalor and the penniless Bohemian years!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It is very easy to immediately find that "hooked" feeling
Some of the press reviews captured what is so exhilarating about this book: The writing and subject matter are so uplifting and equal. Read more
Published 3 days ago by the lazuli
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book but crap print version
Great book but crap print version..too small type poor quality pages etc. Prefer pay a bit more for a book to cherish instead of a word slog read ! Read more
Published 1 month ago by peter golding
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
At long last....a book on the bohemians that does not drown in romantic or mystical prose. It was a time and a place that does not exist today as modern living suffocated it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ghost
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
self indulgent portrait of self indulgent people
Published 5 months ago by Captain Merino
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 8 months ago by ken grout
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The domestic side of Bohemia a really good snuggle down read
Published 11 months ago by jstanhope
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
well receive and enjoyed
Published 11 months ago by Patricia
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and informative.
Competent style from someone with first hand experience of some of the protagonists. Perhaps a bit too broad in scope.
Published 15 months ago by Michael N Dodd
5.0 out of 5 stars Bohemian Rhapsody
(Apologies for the corny title). A friend of mine picked this up in a charity shop in Marin County, California. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Apotropaica
1.0 out of 5 stars Rip-off
However good the book, I really do no see paying more for a Kindle edition that for a proper book
Published on 14 April 2013 by Imrael
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