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Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages in Literary London 1910 -1939 [Paperback]

Katie Roiphe
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

3 Sep 2009

Drawing on the memoirs, letters and diaries of a group of British intellectuals writing between 1910 and the Second World War, UNCOMMON ARRANGEMENTS paints a witty and insightful portrait of seven 'marriages a la mode', each triumphantly casting off Victorian inhibitions and pursuing bohemian ideals of freedom and equality.

But as well as love and passion, there were tolerance, denial, anger, jealousy and drama. The Bloomsbury group's Clive and Vanessa Bell opened up their marriage to accommodate Vanessa's live-in lovers, and Clive's obsession with his sister-in-law, Virginia Woolf. H.G. Well's steadfast wife sent her love to his mistress Rebecca West when their son was born. And Vera Brittain and Katherine Mansfield, more devoted to their work than to their husbands, wrestled with unfulfilled desires.

This is both a fascinating exploration of love, affection and friendship in marriage, and a brilliantly entertaining account of a dazzling era of high-society high living.


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Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages in Literary London 1910 -1939 + In Praise of Messy Lives
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (3 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844082717
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844082711
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 165,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Here's the perfect bedside book for an age like our own, when everything is known and nothing is understood. Roiphe takes the prism of the past and turns high gossip into cultural insight . . . At the end of her book we feel we know these couples as intimately as if we were part of their circle (Tina Brown, NEW YORK TIME BOOK REVIEW)

** 'Elegantly written . . . Roiphe has a sharp way with a phase . . . [an] artful selection of quotes (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Roiphe takes a lively - if self-confessedly un-academic - approach in her biography . . . her flair for detail makes for an engrossing peek into these unconventional family lives (DAILY MAIL)

** 'Roiphe works her way "inside" each marriage . . . UNCOMMON ARRANGEMENTS will teach you many things, none of them comfortable (LITERARY REVIEW)

Book Description

Katie Roiphe explores the unconventional relationships between renowned writers and artists - a fascinating combination of high-society gossip and historical enquiry

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible, beautiful writing - fascinating. 19 Nov 2009
Format:Paperback
This is a terrrific book. Informative and also gossipy, intelligent and insightful, I found this fascinating. Despite the title, which sounds perhaps a bit literary, I didn't want to put this book down and was pretty much glued to it. To see the human side of people like Katherine Mansfield and Vanessa Bell was most intriguing. I highly recommend it - a good stocking filler for Christmas!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight into famous relationships 18 Feb 2010
By Damaskcat HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am always intrigued by the way other people organise their marriages and this book makes fascinating reading. Seven marriages are covered here - some well known such as H G Wells and his wife Jane and mistress Rebecca West; others less well known - to me at any rate - such as Elizabeth Von Arnim and John Francis Russell. All of the seven couples featured here saw marriage as encompassing the freedom to have lovers - or at least romantic friendships - if they wished. Some were open with their partners - others acted in secrecy.

Several of the couples rarely shared a house and others hardly ever seem to have been on the same continent. One couple - Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge were not married in the legal sense though they could have had a civil partnership today. Several of the people featured here had an ambiguity about whether they preferred their own sex or the opposite and many had a passion for reading Jane Austen or having her work read to them. I found it interesting that all the couples moved in the same circles and had friends and lovers in common.

This book is a spell binding read - almost like tabloid newspaper scandals, though much better written. My only complaint is about the lack of geographical detail. Couples bought houses but the location is not stated. The South coast of England encompasses a considerable distance and the country does not have a North coast unless you are talking about Scotland. I kept wanting to yell `Where did they buy a house?' at the author. I think this reflects the book's first publication in the US but I would have thought the UK editors would have spotted the lack of precise information on this point.

Apart from this relatively minor point I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon Arrangements 29 April 2011
By S Riaz HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant book, delving into seven marriages in Literary London (1910-1939), between couples who were often linked, inter related or part of the same 'set'. The marriages concerned are H.G. & Jane Wells, Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry, Elizabeth von Arnim and John Francis Russell, Vanessa and Clive Bell, Ottoline and Philip Morrell, Radclyffe Hall and Una Tourbridge and Vera Brittain and George Gordon Catlin. Mostly, the couples contained at least one author, although Ottoline Morrell was a literary hostess, rather than a writer. There is also one couple who were not married, but in an established lesbian relationship. As well as the couples concerned, there are also those who caused the marriages in question to be different or 'uncommon' - mistresses, lovers and friends.

For anyone interested in the Bloomsbury set, this is also a great portrait of an era and a world of changing expectations and values. This is social history at its best, written in a readable, rather than an academic style. Gossipy, great to dip into, it makes a wonderful bedside read and is simply fascinating. It has also led me to try some of the work by the authors mentioned in the book that I hadn't read before and has introduced me to some great literature. Wonderful, highly recommend this informative read. Despite the tragedy of some of the relationships here, the over-riding sense is of the way people somehow make their lives work in the best way they can. It is the triumph of the human spirit and a sense of family, even if that family was not the more conventional set up. As a last note, I read the kindle edition of this book and it had no typos and was perfectly formatted. Highly recommended and I guarantee it will make you want to read on and explore further.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intro to the Bloomsburys 27 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book showed me the interwoven lives of several of the Bloomsbury set, giving me the best feel for that 'set' I have come across. A fascinating read by this Journalist.
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