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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History made palatable
I would probably not have chosen this title myself as something I would enjoy, but I was pleasantly surprised. Recently passed on to me by my daughter when she was clearing her bookshelves, this is history made palatable. Originally published in 1998 as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, it has now been republished because of the recent film. Prior to reading this I only...
Published on 24 Aug 2009 by LindyLouMac

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amanda Foreman, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire
Amanda Foreman - Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire

This book reflects the life of Georgiana, the duchess of Devonshire. Lady Georgiana Spencer married the Duke of Devonshire in a very young age, and by that she became the duchess of Devonshire. The story takes place in the aristocratic Britain during the 18th century. Georgiana was one of the first women in the...
Published on 10 Dec 2010 by Ellinor Andersson


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History made palatable, 24 Aug 2009
This review is from: The Duchess (Paperback)
I would probably not have chosen this title myself as something I would enjoy, but I was pleasantly surprised. Recently passed on to me by my daughter when she was clearing her bookshelves, this is history made palatable. Originally published in 1998 as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, it has now been republished because of the recent film. Prior to reading this I only knew the very basic facts about her, mainly that she was like her descendant Diana, Princess of Wales publicly loved and personally very troubled.

A fascinating account and although normally I would not want to do so after reading the book, I would actually now like to see the film `The Duchess' and will be looking out to either hire the DVD or wait for it to appear on television.
Through the study of letters Amanda Foreman has managed to create for her readers a vivid portrayal of the life Georgiana lived as a young wife with a much older husband, whose mistress she was expected to accept. What a strange life they all seemed to live surrounded by scandals both at home and in politics. Georgiana herself succumbed to addiction and incurred huge gambling debts, from a very young age. She was also ill-fated to never be happy in love but she never lost sight of the fact that her children were the single most important factor in her life, she adored them. I found there were a number of comparisons to be made with the life of her descendant who was born just over two hundred years after her!

From what I have heard and read about the film I think having read this first will give me a much greater insight and understanding to the broader historical background.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exhaustively researched yet highly accessible book, 9 Jan 2005
I found this absolutely compelling; I simply couldn't put it down. I found the politcal angle paticularly absorbing; the extra juice was just an added bonus! I also loved how Foreman points the reader to the ironies which pepper Georgina's life.It's really got me hooked on 18thc social and political history. I'm lucky enough to have a history degree, but this book is so accessible you don't need one; Foreman just guides through giving you all extra info without sounding patronising. This has to be the best researched biography I've read... if only my academic reading was as fun.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that doesn't talk down to its readers, 28 Jan 2000
By A Customer
I often feel that books aimed at the general reader, ie, someone like me who did not go to university, assume that we are all thickwits who can't tell the difference between good and bad writing. The one thing I loved about Georgiana is that the book has all the quality of academic history while at the same time being very entertaining. Although at times I had to concentrate really hard on a lot of unfamiliar information, I also felt I was getting the real thing. I loved this book and I am now looking for others just like it. I never had a chance to learn about history when I was younger but it seems to me that it's possible to make up for it when authors such as Amanda Foreman write books that are for everybody. Having read this book, I know that I can at least talk about women in the eighteenth century and not sound completely ignorant.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, 7 May 2008
I have given this review 5 stars because I think the book is well researched and an engaging read. It easily moves through the early life of the duchess (who originates in the Spencer family) and her movement through 'the ton'. The author clearly highlights the role of a women in the regency type period - feminism was unheard of and yet here we have a woman influencing politics and refusing to be constrained by her gender. The only negative comment I can make (and this is not a reflection on the book at all) is that I am not sure that I would like Georgiana very much and whilst I have sympathy for her loveless marriage, I find it hard to find empathy for a woman who lived in to such excess when many women of the era would have been grateful for a fragment of the fortune she had.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what a pleasure!, 1 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This book has held me mesmerized for many days. It is not just an account of the life of the extraordinary Duchess of Devonshire but also a wonderful commentary about the time in which she lived - English politics, insights into the French Revolution from the view of Marie Antoinette (Georgiana's friend) etc. Obviously passionate about her subject Ms Foreman very seldom lets this overtake her objectivity. It it wonderfully lucid yet at the same time it is scholarly. It is on a par with, if not better than, Stella Tillyard's "Aristocrats". (And of course Charles Fox 'provides the link between the two books.)
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a well-crafted, sympathetic and vivid portrayal, 21 Dec 2001
By A Customer
Clearly well-researched, this biography of one of the eighteenth century's most enigmatic figures conveys vividly the tumultous world of eighteenth century politics alongside that of Georgiana's private life. A pioneer in women's involvement in politics, her role as a campaigner and society hostess placed her in the centre of the Whig party throughout its years of opposition; prominent men instinctively sought her advice. As well as highlighting G's pivotal political role, Foreman succeeds in capturing the moral ambiguity of the age in the private dilemmas her heroine faces: a hopeless addiction to gaming, her husband's mistress being her best friend, forcing to choose between her lover and her children etc. Although from an age difficult to empathise with, Foreman never the less makes G and her world instantly accessible. An Interesting and insightful read.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than a film tie in..., 10 Sep 2008
By 
S. Butland - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Duchess (Paperback)
The film "The Duchess", while enjoyable enough, shouldn't be seen as simply the content of this book on screen. The book is a mere cupcake compared to the rich dark fruit cake of Foreman's biography!

Georgiana was married to the much older Duke of Devonshire at the age of 17, and during the rest of her life became a well known wit, fashion icon, political mover and shaker, and gambling and opium addict. Oh, and she also lived in a menage with her husband's mistress. Foreman charts the rise and fall of Georgiana's life, giving insight not only into the woman herself but the political and social word in which she lived.

Foreman's style is clear and illuminating, and the combination of clear-eyed historical detail and compassionate approach to her subject make this an unforgettable read.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A female pioneer in electoral politics", 19 Aug 2009
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This is a review of the original hardback edition of 1998. Whilst on a visit to Chatsworth during the time of the release of the movie `The Duchess' I had purchased a new paperback edition with a picture of Keira Knightley on the cover without giving it too much scrutiny. I later discovered that it came with no plates. I then tracked down a very cheap new copy of the hardback edition, and I am pleased to do so. It comes with fifty-seven plates (many in colour) as well as the Spencer and Cavendish family trees as endpapers.

It should not surprise readers that the biography of the duchess as set out in Amanda Foreman's book is a lot more complicated than the life portrayed on the screen. It was more involved, with more players, and Amanda Foreman certainly has much more sympathy for the duke. But Foreman warns us in her introduction that "biographers are notorious for falling in love with their subjects."

And I am always weary of biographies such as this where the first seventeen years of the life is covered in just eighteen pages, and even these eighteen pages also cover the lives of her parents and grandparents. These are the years that form a person's character, but there are only a few references to this aspect. However, I cannot deny that the chapter is nevertheless extremely well-written. I was surprised, however, to find a number of errors in this first chapter. For example, William Cavendish was not Bess of Hardwick's eldest son; it was to Henry Cavendish that Chatsworth was left after Bess's death. And Hardwick House (sic) is not in Yorkshire.

Odd errors appear in the remainder of the text too: Roxborough Downs in Devon is `Roborough Downs'. The Duke of Portland is referred to as the Earl of Portland on the family tree. And we are told that she is buried in the family vault of St Stephen's in Derby! People seeking her grave there will be very disappointed! And how can the author say that "no painter ever captured a true likeness of Georgiana during her life"? How does she know? Some unanswered questions arise too. Why was Lord John Cavendish, who appears as older than his brother William in the printed family tree, not the duke? And what is it about the Cavendish family? We find them "telling the Duke he was a fool to support his wife any longer", for example. Who exactly? And why did they have such power over the Duke? Was he not his own man?

The remaining twenty-three chapters feature at most a period of three years, and many chapters do not even stretch more than a year of Georgiana's relatively short life. Such details allows for plenty of scope to explore her family life and her relationships both inside and outside respectable circles. But Amanda Foreman also includes a number of diversions into the wider social life of the times, such as the use of chamber pots during dinners and the competitions held for the tallest headdresses in London society, where "the only way to ride in a carriage was to sit on the floor."

But Georgiana's arrival into London society also "coincided with the flowering of the English press." And it is this even wider political element that Amanda Foreman addresses so well. Because of Georgiana's active involvement in the politics of the period, we learn much about such events as the Westminster election of 1784 and the Regency crisis of 1788-89: whilst in Paris, "Georgiana's experience of the London mob meant that at first she regarded the sporadic rioting [on the very eve of the Revolution] around her more as a nuisance than a danger." Foreman describes her as "a female pioneer in electoral politics ... It would be another hundred years before women once more ventured boldly into street politics ..." Foreman is surely right when she says, "The propensity of women's historians to ignore high politics, and of political historians to ignore women, has resulted in a profound misunderstanding of one of the most sexually integrated periods of British history."

Georgiana's end comes suddenly, barely a month after the success of her beloved Whig party when she was dubbed by her sometime foe the Duchess of Gordon as "the head of the administration."

There are thirty pages of notes, a ten-page select bibliography, and a twelve-page index (which could be better).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed Biography, 6 Aug 2009
By 
The New Mrs Osborne "Legally_Lillywhite" (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Duchess (Paperback)
Even though this edition is marketed as a film tie-in, with a rather nice picture of Keira Knightly on the front as the Dughess of Devonshire, this is not a novel and those that buy thinking it will be a screenplay may be disappointed.

Having said that, as a biography it is an excellent and detailed account of the Duchess' life. As a frequent visitor to Chatsworth House I could envisage the House and some of the people described from portraits at the House. I did, however, find it a little dry and must admit to skipping a few pages when the writer went into detailed descriptions of the politics and the Whigs. I am, I confess, one of those people that prefer a riproaring read to factual novels (after reading legal documents all day) and this I did find a little dry in places.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome, 26 Jun 2009
By 
W. Henderson (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Duchess (Paperback)
This is a non-fiction biographical account of the Duchess of Devonshire's life in the late 18th century.
I found it fascinating and very readable. The detail about the lives of the characters is amazing, at times funny and at other times sad. The lives they led were extraordinary, full of affairs, illegimate childen, political intrigue, the "ton", social maneuvering, the french revolution, the madness of King George III, and the crazy antics of his son. Who would believe its all true?
Well worth a read, even if you've already seen the film - especially if you have already seen the film - the book has so much more...
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The Duchess
The Duchess by Amanda Foreman (Paperback - 4 Aug 2008)
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