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Susie B
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The Enchanted April
The Enchanted April
Price: £0.35

4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Engaging Story, 29 Aug. 2015
First published in 1922, this engaging story centres on four very different women who are all, in some way, seeking an escape from their lives. Firstly we meet Mrs Wilkins, who after lunching at her London club, picks up 'The Times' and notices an advertisement addressed to: "Those who appreciate wistaria and sunshine. Small Italian medieval castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April." Mrs Wilkins, thinking wistfully of how wonderful it would be to leave behind the dreary February weather and escape to the sunshine in Italy, notices that another member of her club, a Mrs Arbuthnot, is also reading the advertisement and, throwing caution to the wind, she suggests that they rent the castle and share the cost between them. And so both ladies flee London and their rather boorish husbands, and arrive at San Salvatore, where they are joined by Lady Caroline Dester, a young and very beautiful woman, who has come to Italy to escape the adulation of her horde of love-stricken admirers, and they are also joined by the elderly Mrs Fisher, a rather imperious woman, living on her memories of the famous people she knew from her past, and who feels that special attention should be paid to her requirements and desires.

Elizabeth von Arnim has a wonderfully perceptive eye - especially for human foibles and she demonstrates this particularly well in this engaging and amusing story, where all four women gradually open up to the warmth and beauty of their surroundings, begin to see their lives from a different perspective, and realize that they can make changes which could have a significant effect on their futures. The author's enchanting descriptions of the medieval castle, its gardens, its grounds and the sun-drenched olive groves leading down to the sea, are a pleasure to read, and it is easy to become seduced by this rather magical story; it's not a perfect novel, nor entirely convincing, but it's wonderful for a relaxing, downtime reading experience. Read and enjoy!

(Although I read this book some time ago, when I felt like revisiting it, I decided to download the Kindle Whispersync version: The Enchanted April. This meant that I was able to buy the Kindle edition and the Audible audio download edition - very ably narrated by Eleanor Bron - for less than the price of a new paperback and was able to switch effortlessly between reading on my Kindle and listening on my iPad. However, if you are not interested in the audio version, then this very economically priced Kindle edition, which I almost ordered before I spotted the Kindle Whispersync offer, is most probably the one to opt for).

4 Stars.

Note: In case you are not aware, I will just mention that Elizabeth von Arnim was the cousin of the talented writer Katherine Mansfield; she was the lover of H G Wells and she led a very interesting and eventful life, some of which she incorporated into her novels. If you enjoy this author's writing, then other novels of hers that I would recommend are:Elizabeth And Her German Garden (VMC) (which is semi-autobiographical); Mr Skeffington: A Virago Modern Classic and The Caravaners.


The Enchanted April
The Enchanted April
Offered by Audible Ltd

4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Engaging Story, 29 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
First published in 1922, this engaging story centres on four very different women who are all, in some way, seeking an escape from their lives. Firstly we meet Mrs Wilkins, who after lunching at her London club, picks up 'The Times' and notices an advertisement addressed to: "Those who appreciate wistaria and sunshine. Small Italian medieval castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April." Mrs Wilkins, thinking wistfully of how wonderful it would be to leave behind the dreary February weather and escape to the sunshine in Italy, notices that another member of her club, a Mrs Arbuthnot, is also reading the advertisement and, throwing caution to the wind, she suggests that they rent the castle and share the cost between them. And so both ladies flee London and their rather boorish husbands, and arrive at San Salvatore, where they are joined by Lady Caroline Dester, a young and very beautiful woman, who has come to Italy to escape the adulation of her horde of love-stricken admirers; they are also joined by the elderly Mrs Fisher, a rather imperious woman, living on her memories of the famous people she knew from her past, and who feels that special attention should be paid to her requirements and desires.

Elizabeth von Arnim has a wonderfully perceptive eye - especially for human foibles and she demonstrates this particularly well in this engaging and amusing story, where all four women gradually open up to the warmth and beauty of their surroundings, begin to see their lives from a different perspective, and realize that they can make changes which could have a significant effect on their futures. The author's enchanting descriptions of the medieval castle, its gardens, its grounds and the sun-drenched olive groves leading down to the sea, are a pleasure to read, and it is easy to become seduced by this rather magical story; it's not a perfect novel, nor entirely convincing, but it's wonderful for a relaxing, downtime reading experience. Read and enjoy!

(Although I read this book some time ago, when I felt like revisiting it, I decided to download the Kindle Whispersync version. This meant that I was able to buy the Kindle edition and the Audible audio download edition - very ably narrated by Eleanor Bron - for less than the price of a new paperback and was able to switch effortlessly between reading on my Kindle and listening on my iPad).

4 Stars.

Note: In case you are not aware, I will just mention that Elizabeth von Arnim was the cousin of the talented writer Katherine Mansfield; she was the lover of H G Wells and she led a very interesting and eventful life, some of which she incorporated into her novels. If you enjoy this author's writing, then other novels of hers that I would recommend are:Elizabeth And Her German Garden (VMC) (which is semi-autobiographical); Mr Skeffington: A Virago Modern Classic and The Caravaners


Francis Bacon in Your Blood
Francis Bacon in Your Blood
by Michael Peppiatt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating and Illuminating Memoir, 27 Aug. 2015
Michael Peppiatt was a twenty-one-year-old Cambridge undergraduate when, in a pub in Soho in 1963, he first met the fifty-three-year-old Francis Bacon, whom Peppiatt hoped to interview for a student magazine. Expecting to be more or less dismissed by the famous artist who had just had his first retrospective exhibition at the Tate, Peppiatt was surprised when Bacon welcomed him into his circle and, after an alcohol-fuelled lunch with a group of friends which included fellow painter, Lucian Freud, and photographer, John Deakin, Bacon carried the young Peppiatt off into the Soho night. At the end of the evening out, where the crowd ended up at a party on Isle of Dogs, the inebriated Peppiatt finally managed to stumble his way back to King's Cross Station in the early hours of the morning, with Bacon's telephone number and his promise for the pair to meet up for the proposed interview. And so, the author tells us, what began as a brief interview for a student magazine turned into a close friendship which lasted for nearly thirty years, during which time Bacon became a kind of father figure to Peppiatt and the central influence on his life.

Michael Peppiatt has already written an excellent biography of Francis Bacon: Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma - an artist whom the author refers to as one of the most inventive, influential and subversive artists of the twentieth century - but this book, he tells the reader, is a very different animal and far from being the objective account of a life, this is a very subjective story. Therefore, through the pages of this interesting and illuminating memoir we follow Michael Peppiatt as he became increasingly more involved with Bacon and his coterie which, in addition to the aforementioned Deakin and Freud, also included: Denis Wirth-Miller, Sonia Orwell, Frank Auerbach, R B Kitaj, Henrietta Moraes, French surrealist writer, Michel Leiris, and Bacon's lover and muse, George Dyer, who tragically committed suicide in their Paris hotel room just as Bacon's Grand Palais exhibition opened to universal acclaim. With mention of countless boozy lunches and alcohol-fuelled parties, the reader also shares in the author's many conversations with Bacon which encompassed wide-ranging aspects of life and art and where Bacon tells Peppiatt: "Art itself is an artifice...reality has to be reinvented to convey the intensity of the real." This is a story, the author tells us, he has wanted to write for years: "...telling it as it really was, before the world I shared with Bacon vanishes and is retold by those who were never there." Intimate, explicit and honest, this memoir made for a fascinating, involving and very eye-opening read.

5 Stars.


A House in St John's Wood: In Search of My Parents
A House in St John's Wood: In Search of My Parents
by Matthew Spender
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Search of Stephen and Natasha Spender, 27 Aug. 2015
Writer and sculptor Matthew Spender's father was the poet Stephen Spender, who married the twenty-one-year-old classically trained pianist Natasha Litvin in 1941, and although Spender was predominantly homosexual, this was his second marriage. At Oxford (where he failed to obtain a degree, but where his sexual attraction to other men was established) Spender, already known to W.H. Auden, became on much closer terms with him, and through Auden, Spender became friendly with Christopher Isherwood - the three of them later spending time together in Germany where they felt able to express much greater levels of sexual and artistic freedom. Back in London in 1933, Spender, who was attracted to young working-class men, met Tony Hyndman, with whom he shared a house and a rather tumultuous relationship which continued for years.

When Spender married Natasha Litvin, he made her aware of his past life and of his love affairs, but it appears that she was under the impression that that part of his life was over. When she spotted him chatting to an attractive man at a party, and discovered the man was Spender's latest lover, Natasha fainted; several days later, after a misunderstanding that was ostensibly about something else, she tried to throw herself off a train. Spender, alarmed by his wife's behaviour, consulted psychiatrist Anna Freud, but failed to realize that his manner of conducting his life may have caused Natasha's instability. Matthew writes: "He never thought about how she saw him, nor did he consider that her moments of wildness might be a reaction to something he had done... His entire effort was dedicated to understanding his own emotions." In order to cope and to keep up appearances, Natasha erected a front which was held together by "an immense effort of will' and in doing so their married life was able to carry on, albeit with Spender continuing to fall in love with young men and Natasha, at some cost to her sense of self-worth and self-esteem, remaining devoted to her husband - although Matthew Spender reveals the discovery, after his mother's death, of a box of love letters to Natasha from the novelist Raymond Chandler.

There is, naturally, a lot more to this memoir than I have mentioned in this review, including Stephen Spender's initial enthusiasm and later disillusionment with communism; his brief time in Spain during the early part of Spanish Civil War in an attempt to trace the whereabouts of the 'Komsomol', a Russian ship loaded with munitions which mysteriously disappeared on its way to Barcelona; of Spender's writing of propaganda for the war effort; of his contributions to Cyril Connolly's magazine 'Horizon'; of his visiting professorships and lecture tours in America, and much more. But Matthew Spender's memoir is not just about his quest to understand his parents and their life together, this book is also about Matthew's own unconventional life, of his marriage to painter Maro Gorky (daughter of abstract expressionist artist Arshile Gorky) and of their escape to Italy where they have lived and worked for decades. With mention of many well-known characters including: Louis Macneice; Francis Bacon; Julian Huxley; Nicolas Nabokov; Lucian Freud; Sonia Orwell; Virginia Woolf, and many more, this deftly written and perceptive account - which, the author tells us, started as an imaginary conversation with the ghosts of his parents whom he never challenged while they were alive - made for an interesting and illuminating read.

4 Stars.


Noonday
Noonday
by Pat Barker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Noonday, 27 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Noonday (Hardcover)
Pat Barker moves away from the First World War of her famous 'Regeneration Trilogy' and her two most recent novels:Life Class and Toby's Room and now focuses her attention on the Second World War with this latest novel, which concludes the Life Class Trilogy, following the lives of Elinor Brooke, Paul Tarrant and Kit Neville, the three artists who studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, and who we first met in 'Life Class'.

Our story begins in 1940, where Elinor's mother lies dying in her country home, and as Elinor and her sister, Rachel, wait restlessly for the end, enemy planes fly overhead on their way to bomb London. Elinor, now middle-aged, married to Paul and living and working in London (she as an ambulance driver, he as an air-raid warden), is keen to return to the city - as is Kenny, an evacuee who has been billeted on Rachel and her husband, and who longs to return to his mother who lives in the East End. When Kenny makes a thwarted bid to escape, Paul takes pity on the homesick young boy and, haunted by his difficult relationship with his own mother, decides to drive Kenny to the East End in the midst of the Blitz - a decision which has consequences for some time afterwards for Paul. Meanwhile Kit Neville (severely facially disfigured during the First World War) is now estranged from his wife, Catherine, and works as an ambulance driver at the same depot as Elinor, for whom he still has amorous feelings - feelings which he does not hesitate to act upon when, under difficult circumstances, the opportunity presents itself. And there, on the sidelines, is Bertha Mason, a clairvoyant, whom Paul meets by chance when he is suffering from shock, who is not averse to exaggerating her 'gift' in order to make a living... There is quite a lot more, of course, to this final book in the trilogy, but the remainder of the story is for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

As with the previous two novels in this trilogy, 'Noonday' can be read independently due to Ms Barker including enough information in this book to enable to reader to understand what has gone before - but I would recommend reading the other two books in the series before embarking on this one, if possible, as this will enable new readers to familiarise themselves with the characters and become more fully involved in their lives and the situations they find themselves in. In this final instalment, Pat Barker's perceptively observed plot moves along briskly, the writing is direct and unsentimental, and there are some vivid and atmospheric descriptions of the Blitz - from the aspect of the terrible loss of life and limb, where we read of rescuers digging out bodies, both dead and alive, from beneath piles of bricks and mortar, but also from a more practical aspect where, for instance, after the bombing of her London home, Elinor looks up at the damaged houses around her and observes: "There was a bathroom with a washbasin and toilet, looking somehow vulnerable, touching even, like a fleeting glimpse of somebody's backside. You wanted to cover it up, restore its dignity, but there was no way of doing that."

In addition to her vivid depiction of wartime London, the author also describes her clairvoyant, the coarse, down-to-earth and grossly overweight northerner Bertha Mason (who holds public seances in pawnshops and whose back-history could almost support a story of its own), particularly well. Whether Bertha actually believes she is in touch with 'the other side' and chooses to bolster her psychic powers with chicanery, or whether she is a total fraud (we read of how, amongst other tricks, she fills one of her orifices with cheesecloth to simulate ectoplasm) we do not know, but she is certainly an intriguing character and I am sure I will not be alone in noticing that Bertha has been named after the insane wife of Charlotte Bronte's Mr Rochester. Overall, although I did not find this final instalment to have quite the impact of 'Life Class', which explored the role of art in time of war, or 'Toby's Room' where, amongst other topics, we read of the pioneering work on facial reconstruction carried out on servicemen who had been horrifically injured during WW1, I found 'Noontime' an interesting and involving read and one which leads me to wonder, now that Ms Barker has completed this wartime trilogy, what she will focus on for her next fictional outing.

4 Stars.


The Men and the Girls
The Men and the Girls
by Joanna Trollope
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.51

3.0 out of 5 stars Audio CD Version - Interesting, But Not Joanna Trollope's Best, 23 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Men and the Girls (Audio CD)
When James Mallow, sixtyish and short-sighted, knocks Oxford spinster, Beatrice Bachelor, off her bicycle one dark, wet evening, he is mortified. Keen to make reparations to the frail, but spirited elderly lady, James makes plans to visit her and, in doing so, begins an unusual friendship which does not go down well with his live-in partner, the attractive, feisty, thirty-something Kate. Unable to fully articulate her objection to James's friendship with Miss Bachelor, Kate has concerns that his partiality to the retired classics teacher is due to his encroaching old age and she begins to worry that James may finally have become too old for her; added to that there is Leonard, James's cantankerous elderly uncle who lives with them, all of which makes Kate feel she is surrounded by ageing individuals. She then meets, Mark Hathaway, a good-looking, rather impetuous young man who encourages Kate to make a bid for her freedom whilst she is still young enough to enjoy it. Kate, intoxicated by the life Mark leads in his house in Osney, a riverside community in the west of Oxford, longs to begin life afresh - but there is her daughter, fourteen-year-old Joss, who looks upon James almost as a father, who has quite different ideas and, of course, James himself, who loves Kate deeply and is heartbroken by her decision to leave. And in leaving, does Kate risk 'burning her boats' and losing the only worthwhile and steady relationship she has ever had for what may ultimately be a transient urge to break free ?

Running alongside James's and Kate's story is that of Hugh and Julia Hunter, who are married and have a seemingly idyllic life which they share with their 'adorable' four-year-old twins. Hugh, a contemporary and old friend of James's, is a television presenter who suddenly finds his career taking a downward turn - a situation he finds difficult to accept, especially when his much younger wife's career seems to be in the ascendant. He confides in James who, as we know, has his own problems to contend with, but what do James and Hugh do to enable them to cope with their sudden change in circumstances? Obviously, I shall leave this for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

As always with Joanna Trollope, I found this a well-written, interesting and rather absorbing story where, as usual, the author uses her narrative to explore the dynamics of family life and the problems and pitfalls that seem to occur just when everything appears to be going well. However, I didn't find this novel to be one of Ms Trollop's best (at least not on a par with: The Choir; The Rector's Wife or A Spanish Lover). It's a perfectly readable story, but one I found rather dispiriting - not just reading about Kate's dilemma, but other aspects relating to ageing, of which I cannot really discuss further without revealing too much of the story. I also found the female lead characters a little annoying - Kate with her longing to be free without really thinking about all that her bid for freedom involved and how this affected those around her, and the almost too perfect Julia with her reasonableness, her skills of organisation and her practically faultless behaviour - but again, I cannot discuss this fully without further revelations. In fact, I think Ms Trollope portrayed the male characters (including the irascible Leonard) better than the main female protagonists in this particular novel. I also found that the ambiguous ending made this a less than entirely satisfying read. All of that said however, as I mentioned earlier, this is a well-written, interesting and perfectly readable story with some enjoyable descriptions of Oxford, which I purchased as a Kindle Whispersync deal (where you can download both the Kindle version and the Audible version for little more than the price of a new paperback) which was very ably narrated by Eleanor Bron and worked well for me to read/listen to whilst commuting. (In addition to the Audible download version, this novel is also available as an unabridged audio CD).

3 Stars.


The Men And The Girls
The Men And The Girls
Price: £5.22

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, But Not Joanna Trollope's Best, 23 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When James Mallow, sixtyish and short-sighted, knocks Oxford spinster, Beatrice Bachelor, off her bicycle one dark, wet evening, he is mortified. Keen to make reparations to the frail, but spirited elderly lady, James makes plans to visit her and, in doing so, begins an unusual friendship which does not go down well with his live-in partner, the attractive, feisty, thirty-something Kate. Unable to fully articulate her objection to James's friendship with Miss Bachelor, Kate has concerns that his partiality to the retired classics teacher is due to his encroaching old age and she begins to worry that James may finally have become too old for her; added to that there is Leonard, James's cantankerous elderly uncle who lives with them, all of which makes Kate feel she is surrounded by ageing individuals. She then meets, Mark Hathaway, a good-looking, rather impetuous young man who encourages Kate to make a bid for her freedom whilst she is still young enough to enjoy it. Kate, intoxicated by the life Mark leads in his house in Osney, a riverside community in the west of Oxford, longs to begin life afresh - but there is her daughter, fourteen-year-old Joss, who looks upon James almost as a father, who has quite different ideas and, of course, James himself, who loves Kate deeply and is heartbroken by her decision to leave. And in leaving, does Kate risk 'burning her boats' and losing the only worthwhile and steady relationship she has ever had for what may ultimately be a transient urge to break free ?

Running alongside James's and Kate's story is that of Hugh and Julia Hunter, who are married and have a seemingly idyllic life which they share with their 'adorable' four-year-old twins. Hugh, a contemporary and old friend of James's, is a television presenter who suddenly finds his career taking a downward turn - a situation he finds difficult to accept, especially when his much younger wife's career seems to be in the ascendant. He confides in James who, as we know, has his own problems to contend with, but what do James and Hugh do to enable them to cope with their sudden change in circumstances? Obviously, I shall leave this for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

As always with Joanna Trollope, I found this a well-written, interesting and rather absorbing story where, as usual, the author uses her narrative to explore the dynamics of family life and the problems and pitfalls that seem to occur just when everything appears to be going well. However, I didn't find this novel to be one of Ms Trollop's best (at least not on a par with: The Choir; The Rector's Wife or A Spanish Lover). It's a perfectly readable story, but one I found rather dispiriting - not just reading about Kate's dilemma, but other aspects relating to ageing, of which I cannot really discuss further without revealing too much of the story. I also found the female lead characters a little annoying - Kate with her longing to be free without really thinking about all that her bid for freedom involved and how this affected those around her, and the almost too perfect Julia with her reasonableness, her skills of organisation and her practically faultless behaviour - but again, I cannot discuss this fully without further revelations. In fact, I think Ms Trollope portrayed the male characters (including the irascible Leonard) better than the main female protagonists in this particular novel. I also found that the ambiguous ending made this a less than entirely satisfying read. All of that said however, as I mentioned earlier, this is a well-written, interesting and perfectly readable story with some enjoyable descriptions of Oxford, which I purchased as a Kindle Whispersync deal (where you can download both the Kindle version and the Audible version for little more than the price of a new paperback) which was very ably narrated by Eleanor Bron and worked well for me to read/listen to whilst commuting. (In addition to the Audible download version, this novel is also available as an unabridged audio CD: The Men and the Girls).

3 Stars.


News from Berlin
News from Berlin
by Otto de Kat
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars News From Berlin, 21 Aug. 2015
This review is from: News from Berlin (Paperback)
Otto de Kat's fourth novel to be translated into English begins in June 1941, where we meet Dutch diplomat, Oscar Verschuur, and his wife, Kate, also Dutch, but living in London for the duration the war. We also meet their daughter, Emma, who is married to Carl (described as a 'good' German) who works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they both live in Berlin. Oscar, who has been posted to neutral Switzerland, has the opportunity to meet up with Emma and Carl when they arrive in Geneva with Carl's boss, and during this brief meeting, Emma shocks her father by sharing some information she has learnt from her husband about Operation Barbarossa, the code name for Germany's imminent plan to invade Russia. (No spoilers, we learn all of this early on in the novel). Oscar is unsure how to proceed - Switzerland is "rife with German spies" and he is worried that their meeting was observed - if he passes on the information to the British, the Gestapo might be able to trace the leak back to Emma, with dire consequences; however, if he remains silent, thousands of Russians will be killed without a proper chance to defend themselves.

(There are other strands to this novel, but as this book is brief in length and I don't want to reveal spoilers, I shall leave these for prospective readers to discover).

Beautifully and elegantly written, this attractively presented novel makes for an interesting and absorbing read, where the protagonists are never entirely sure exactly who they can trust outside their own circle, but also unsure of how much they really know about those immediately around them. I very much enjoyed this novel, as I did the author's previous novel: Julia, however, although I realize that Otto De Kat's novels are a masterclass in brevity, I found myself wanting to know more about these people and their back histories. That aside, this is a very good novel - one to read in a single sitting and to then put into the bookcase to read again in the future.

4 Stars.


Rembrandt's Mirror
Rembrandt's Mirror
by Kim Devereux
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transport Yourself to 17th Century Amsterdam, 20 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Rembrandt's Mirror (Hardcover)
Focusing on the later years of the Dutch artist, Rembrandt, Kim Devereux's debut novel centres on Hendrickje Stoffels, a naive young woman from a family of devout Calvinists, who arrives at Rembrandt's Amsterdam house in 1647, to work as a maid. Rembrandt's much-loved wife, Saskia, has died and, after the artist's initial period of deep grief passed, he has been involved in a sexual liaison with his housekeeper, Geertje - a relationship which greatly disturbs the innocent Hendrickje when she clandestinely discovers their carnal couplings. Shocked by what she has seen and distressed by her own attraction to the artist, Hendrickje turns to Rembrandt's assistant, Samuel, who seems keen to become on more intimate terms with her. However, Hendrickje finds herself becoming drawn closer to Rembrandt, intrigued by his genius and his perception of the world around him, and also by the manner in which he encourages her to see things in a different way. Before long, despite her reservations, Rembrandt and Hendrickje become closer than she would ever have imagined - but then there is the indomitable Geertje to contend with, who refuses to be quietly put aside...

Well-researched and (to my knowledge) factually accurate in many parts, this beautifully presented hardback with its gold-edged pages and each chapter entitled after one of Rembrandt's paintings, was a pleasure to handle and to read. Full of painterly descriptions, lyrical prose and a narrative which appears rich in historical authenticity, Ms Devereux's story transported me to 17th Century Amsterdam and kept me involved and interested from the first page to the last. Although this book will inevitably be compared with 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' (which I enjoyed) I found this a more convincing and absorbing story and I will be looking with interest to see what Kim Devereux decides to write about next. Recommended.

5 Stars.


By Hallie Rubenhold - Lady Worsley's Whim: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce
By Hallie Rubenhold - Lady Worsley's Whim: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce
by Hallie Rubenhold
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Highly Readable Account, 17 Aug. 2015
(Please note: This book has now been republished as: 'The Scandalous Lady W').

In 1775, the immensely rich eighteen-year-old heiress, Seymour Fleming, married the politically ambitious baronet, Sir Richard Worsley, and the newly-weds became the toast of the town. Invited to balls, dinners and social gatherings, the young couple did the rounds in London and then spent time at Sir Richard's family home, Appuldurcombe, on the Isle of Wight, where he lavished money on improvements to the house and grounds; in fact his bills from Chippendale and Haig exceeded two thousand pounds (over two million in today's money) for furniture and fittings for Appuldurcombe and his London home. A calculating and shrewd young man, Sir Richard ensured that his opinions and political views were closely aligned with those of his monarch, knowing that: "the more obsequiously loyal he became, the more likely he was to achieve his ultimate design of obtaining a peerage." However, although in politics Sir Richard's strategy may have been a shrewd one, in his private life he greatly miscalculated the loyalty due to him from his spirited young wife and his friend and neighbouring landowner, Maurice George Bisset - with whom Lady Worsley had begun a passionate affair.

In private, Sir Richard appeared to condone the affair and even seemed to encourage it - fired by his own penchant for voyeurism, he helped Bisset to climb up onto his shoulders so that Bisset could peep through the window of a public bath house and watch the unclothed Seymour get dressed, and he was aware of the fact that Seymour's second child, a daughter, was fathered by Bisset, but was quite prepared to acknowledge the child as his own. However, when one November night in 1781 Seymour and Bisset decided they had had enough of the threesome, and rashly decided to elope, Sir Richard used his cunning to plot his revenge. Refusing his wife access to her daughter, and also to her clothes and jewellery (worth millions of pounds in today's money), Sir Richard planned to financially ruin Bisset by suing him for criminal conversation - which meant that Sir Richard was able to make a legal attempt to claim huge damages for the loss of his wife. In the courtroom drama which followed, it initially appeared that Sir Richard's case was a very strong one and that Bisset would be totally ruined, but when the Worsleys' private life was laid open to the court (and then to the public) Sir Richard was in for a rather nasty shock.

Fast-paced, well-researched, highly readable and peppered with interesting details about 18th Century life and the status of women in society at that time, including discussion of the very real risks Lady Worsley took with regard to the loss of her fortune and reputation should details about the Worsley's private life become public knowledge, social historian Hallie Rubenhold's 'The Scandalous Lady W' makes for fascinating and entertaining reading - the author's depiction of the build-up to the elopement and Bisset and Seymour's flight to London was both gripping and suspenseful, and the courtroom scenes and all that followed, kept me interested and involved throughout the entire length of the book. Recommended.

5 Stars.


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