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The Verneys: Love, War and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England [Paperback]

Adrian Tinniswood
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 April 2008

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.

In this extraordinary saga, Adrian Tinniswood draws on tens of thousands of letters, which survived by chance in an attic, to reveal the remarkable world of the Verneys, a family of Buckinghamshire gentry in the seventeenth century.

Here is Edmund Verney, Charles I's standard bearer at Edgehill, who died still clutching the King's standard, and his children: Ralph, whose support of the Parliamentarian cause during the Civil War forced him into exile; Mun, a professional soldier who survived Cromwell's attack on Drogheda in 1649, only to be stabbed to death two days later; Mall, who fell pregnant out of wedlock, and Bess, who ran off with a clergyman. There was also Henry, who was obsessed with horse-racing; Cary, who gambled away a fortune, and Tom, a devout Christian and a petty crook.

The next generation led equally exciting lives. Ralph's son Jack went to Syria and made a fortune. Cousin Pen stayed at home and slept with her sister's fiancé. Cousin Dick was hanged at Tyburn. Jack's brother Edmund married a girl who was rich, beautiful and deeply in love with him and within months of the marriage, she lost her mind.

The Verneys is narrative history at its very best - fascinating, surprising, enthralling.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (3 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844134148
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844134144
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 298,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A marvellous history. Intimate and compelling, it's an exciting tale of adventure on the high seas and a family torn apart by civil war" (Daily Mail)

"A compelling drama of marriage, death, madness and adventure" (Stella Tillyard Sunday Times)

"A fascinating and engrossing tale" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Much more than a powerful family saga, full of spectacular rows and tearful makings-up, joyful births and tragic early deaths... A model for how biography and social history can be made to work magnificently together" (Financial Times)

"A wonderfully immediate, intimate portrait of an age" (Scotsman)

Book Description

The extraordinary story of one English family in the seventeenth century: narrative social history at its best.

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling history! 14 April 2008
This is history at its best - it's readable, compelling and thoroughly enjoyable. Tinniswood's book achieves many goals in one - a fascinating social history, meticulous biography, powerful family saga, and not least it is a really good and engaging read.

The tale begins with Sir Francis Verney who ran away from his teenage wife in 1608, sold off much of the Verney property, converted to Islam and became one of the most feared pirates on the Barbary Coast. Carry on to read about Bess, who ran off with a clergyman; Cary, a heavy gambler, and Henry who was obsessed with horse racing; not to mention those involved in the English Civil War; Mall, who became pregnant out of marriage, or one of the later relatives who was hanged at Tyburn. A really good and compelling portrait of seventeenth-century England, and especially the Verney family. The history is based predominantly on the extensive records of the Verneys, particularly hundreds of letters kept by Sir Ralph Verney (1613-96) who presided over Claydon House in Buckinghamshire for over 50 years.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stuart era soap opera 29 Oct 2007
Adrian has taken the collected letters of the Verneys and turned them into a fascinating story of life in the Civil War and Restoration. The Verney family characters are all uniquely human with frailties and aspirations that are recognisable today, especially in how Sir Ralph Verney tries to maintain the family fortunes, have his sons shoulder responsibilities and marry well with large dowries. The women are not in the background and show how they rebel to the strictures placed on them by society.

Adrian's own views stay in the background except for some, for him, shocking revelations as to personal conduct. Its a surprisingly readable page turning insight into how an aristocratic family copes with being torn apart by the Civil War, with parallel in today's world
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By the Sword Divided in book form. 26 Nov 2008
By Mrs J
I've just finished this book and found it hard to put down. The 17th Century was a time of massive change in England and for that reason alone, this book is fascinating. However, if you take the history away, this is a story of the lives, loves, triumphs and tragedies of a family. It reads like a soap opera with happy marriage, unhappy marriage,struggling to make ends meet, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, criminality, birth, premature death, love, laughter and grief.
If you liked "By the Sword Divided" ( If you're old enough to remember!) then I heartily recommend this book to you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars definitely recommended 17 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
this is a wonderful book. I was recommended to read this by a work colleague as historical novels are not my usual reading material. However I was enthralled by this family and what made it more worthy was the fact that it was based on true account of peoples lives from letters written. The power of the pen never ceases to amaze me, and it is a sad thought that children today know how to text and twitter, but rarely write a letter!

This book is a definite must read book for anyone as the people draw you into their lives, but it is difficult to put down, so allow yourself time to get into the book.
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