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Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 Hardcover – 7 Nov 2002


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (7 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670889660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670889662
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 703,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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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First Sentence
A couple of years after their marriage in 1918, the writer Robert Graves and his painter wife Nancy found themselves unable to make ends meet. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Not Pepys on 19 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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106 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on 11 Dec 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Fay on 15 July 2011
Format: Paperback
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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