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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Big House
This was a book recommended to me, and I must say I could not put it down once I had started. The author goes into quite minute details of family life in the Big House, which includes not just the day to day happenings but all their staff and some of the villagers too. A great social history of the times.
Published on 15 Nov 2010 by Mr. Brian Everitt

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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Parody
This is the worst kind of family memoir. The kind that was parodied 70 years ago by the Lady Addle books of Mary Dunn. Sykes is far too partisan in his approach to his family and too free with his unsubstantiated value judgments. The awful Jessie or Jessica - Sykes is not consistent - is subject to near adulation regardless of whatever monstrous act she commits -...
Published on 20 April 2011 by mpollard


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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Big House, 15 Nov 2010
By 
Mr. Brian Everitt "burwell" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Big House: The Story of a Country House and its Family (Paperback)
This was a book recommended to me, and I must say I could not put it down once I had started. The author goes into quite minute details of family life in the Big House, which includes not just the day to day happenings but all their staff and some of the villagers too. A great social history of the times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars story of a family, 10 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Big House: The Story of a Country House and its Family (Paperback)
I did n,ot read this book as it was a gift to another person, but I know that it was well received
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 6 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Big House: The Story of a Country House and its Family (Paperback)
Sledmere House in the East Yorkshire Wolds has been in the same family since the 17th Century, and is still a private agricultural and sporting estate. A magical place brought alive by Christopher Sykes' marvellous book
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5.0 out of 5 stars You could not make it up!, 17 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Big House: The Story of a Country House and its Family (Paperback)
This is a most engaging and astonishing tale - and packed with colourful anecdotes stranger than a novelist would dare to invent. The focus is not on Sledmere House nor its servant community but chiefly on the extraordinary behaviour of a larger than life, eccentric and dysfunctional aristocratic family. It's the post 1850 section, about which more sensational detail is available, which I found most interesting.

It's written - with much affection - by a member of Sledmere House's Sykes family dynasty. It tells of a world where children can build their own giant forts in the parental acres, commission a working guillotine for their French Revolution re-enactments in the cellars, and from their nursery galleries catch whispers of the many bulky skeletons in the adults' closets. It's a tale of vast wealth from this racehorse-mad Yorkshire Wolds estate, utterly feudal power over a community, and one severely dysfunctional father after another. Madness and marriages from hell, sewerage systems likewise from hell, spectacular alcoholism and adultery, heroin and homosexuality, boundless extravagance and appalling parental and marital cruelty - this is the stuff of this everyday tale of Country folk. And somehow the Sykes do each dreadful deed with some original twist which keeps the story riveting to read.

There are many entertaining anecdotes. When a Sykes lord dies in a smart London hotel, the management seek to remove his body in a special hollow sofa, kept for this purpose, lest other guests be alarmed. A guest at Sledmere breaks an antique chair, accidentally and unseen. Terrified of his host's notorious rages, he hides the chair then sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night to chop it up and burn it without trace in the fireplace. There are many tales of a Sykes who's a compelling candidate for Upper Class Twit of All Time. He's the helpless serial victim of endless cruel practical jokes, played on him by super-rich aristocrats whom he hosts lavishly till they bankrupt him.

Yet the saga is told truly with affection. A positive light is cast on family doings wherever possible - though often that's a tall order! I suspect that quite a bit of bad news is held back here about how these Lords of the Manor treated their minions and tenants. Because I know Sledmere, I can tell you that this book glaringly avoids mentioning the notorious `Waggoners' Memorial' to the First World War, which the Sykes have placed on the main road outside Sledmere House. Its depictions of Germans are so brutal that both British Foreign Office and German government unsuccessfully tried to get the Sykes to tone it down. But I'll still give this book Five Stars though. For behind such omissions presumably there lies the very same affection by the author for his family which gives this book a lot of its energy, charm and colour.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read, 5 Jun 2012
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S. Chadwick-watts "penlex" (bridlington, east yorks) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Big House: The Story of a Country House and its Family (Paperback)
Sledmere house is local to me and I was enthralled with this book. Completely disagree with the previous negative review and could not recommend more highly. If you live in the area or have ever visited Sledmere House you will be gripped from start to finish as was I.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Parody, 20 April 2011
This review is from: The Big House: The Story of a Country House and its Family (Paperback)
This is the worst kind of family memoir. The kind that was parodied 70 years ago by the Lady Addle books of Mary Dunn. Sykes is far too partisan in his approach to his family and too free with his unsubstantiated value judgments. The awful Jessie or Jessica - Sykes is not consistent - is subject to near adulation regardless of whatever monstrous act she commits - serial adultery, forgery, moral blackmail, near financial ruin of the entire family. All this is blamed on her husband because he is boring and would not go to enough parties with her. He is constantly condemned although appearing to have suffered an abusive childhood at the hands of another of Sykes's family idols. Other characters are so blandly eulogized as to make them incredibly boring and one dimensional while there is too much that appears to be based on unsubstantiated family gossip of the most banal kind. This is where the Lady Addle connection comes in. There is obviously a different story to be told of this family, one that is hinted at and which the reader can grasp at but which Sykes is to blinkered or obtuse to see. Also although it is called The Big House there is really too little about the house or the household and many of the wives and daughters get very short shrift, also evidenced by the less-than-exhaustive family tree at the beginning of the book. The book is also marred by more than its fair share of typos and omissions. Overall this family comes across as wealthy but boring and self serving; all its dramas are petty and have no impact on the wider world. Its members show no intellectual merit nor do they undertake any great services for their nation. The reader is left wondering what the point of this book is other to aggrandize the author and his family.
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The Big House: The Story of a Country House and its Family
The Big House: The Story of a Country House and its Family by Christopher Simon Sykes (Paperback - 4 July 2005)
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