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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 7 Nov 2011
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This review is from: The Gentry (Hardcover)
Every now and then someone sits down and writes a book on a peripheral subject that brings it into brilliant focus, totally accessible to, and enjoyable for, the general public. In sociology, an earlier equivalent might be Mark Girouard's Life in the English Country House.
Here Adam Nicolson illuminates the superficially dry subject of the gentry - the minor squires, squeezed between the overmighty nobles and the social oblivion of the yeomen farmers - who over the past 500 years have struggled to hold on to their place in the world.
Sounds dull? Not in this book, where he has taken a representative group from each era, incidentally taking us on a tour d'horizon of the major events of their day: the Wars of the Roses, Reformation, Armada, Civil War, American revolution, the Victorian bonanza and the Second World War.
By definition each family is seen spotlit while struggling with some major crisis, and the drama is so well presented that the reader is drawn into each family's battle for survival.
Very highly recommended.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gentry- Adam Nicholson, 14 Feb 2012
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This review is from: The Gentry (Hardcover)
This was a very interesting and informative book, well worth reading. Nicholson maintains our interest throughout and the research has been very thorough. With hindsight some descendants must be furious that their ancestors, in some instances, were so profligate with their estates.
Very worth buying.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 18 Feb 2012
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This review is from: The Gentry (Hardcover)
My initial attention was drawn to this book when Adam Nicholson was interviewed by Nick Higham on BBC. Nicholson has profiled twelve families over a period of six-hundred years (1410-2010). Excellent research is prevalent with personal letters written by members of the families , enabling the reader to feel part of the stories. The particularly striking part of this book is that even during the fifteenth-century, material extravagance and inequalitites were in full existence. From the Plumptons of Yorkshire to the Hugheses of Kinmel, Denbighshire and Grosvenor Square, London,we see the extremities to which the gentry stooped to in preserving wealth within the family bloodline,such as marrying off six year old children, demonstrating the precariousness of the gentry. Adam Nicholson gives wonderful descriptions of the countryside and informs readers of what remains of the mansions featured in the stories. My favourite stories are the Lascelles, the Pinckneys, the Aclands and the Cliffords. To a certain degree, this book is about the rise and fall of the gentry. It is useful to readers interested in the evolution of the English language and social history and it is beautifully presented. Highly recommended.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "making the experience of individual moments the substance of the story", 1 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Gentry (Hardcover)
For centuries, gentry families have been at the centre of English life: they owned most of it and governed much of it, and were the link between manor and church, farm and village.

Adam Nicolson profiles a dozen gentry families from the fifteenth century to the present day, focusing on a particular crisis in their family history; some acquire a taste for reckless extravagance, others fall in love across social classes, while some change from rural landowners into urban business people.

Nicolson interweaves his narrative with extracts from private journals and personal letters, his purpose being in his words "to make the experience of individual moments the substance of the story".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight to read, 29 Sep 2012
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Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class (Paperback)
I must admit to only coming across this book by accident and as I thoroughly enjoyed the author's Sissinghurst I thought I'd give it a try. I'm very glad I did. Mr Nicolson delves into the family histories and presents us with a very readable, humorous and engaging read. A measure of the author's success is that I ended up having a great deal of sympathy for people I was determined not to like at first, not being overly fond of "toffs" as it were. The author has visited all the demesnes (always wanted to use that word) of the families concerned and brings the histories to life by relating them to present day activity. Whilst the book is obviously about the "Upstairs" I would have liked a little more about the "Downstairs" but that is my only, perhaps overly harsh, criticism and lets face it there are plenty other books about that. I suppose that the success of Downton Abbey could open up this book's readership and I sincerely hope it does, as it provides a valuable history lesson for those dazzled by the TV drama.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 3 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Gentry (Hardcover)
I read a glowing review in The Spectator and have not been disappointed. The book is a well organised, well written, well researched study of several gentry. Some well known, others more obscure. I was particularly interested in the Acland story. As a child I went to see his Broadhembury house on a garden open day and was aware there was some whispered history as we walked around the garden. The stories have a great depth and breadth. I wish there had been more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adam Nicolson., 24 April 2013
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Good book, excellent research, not really suitable for Kindle. Hardback includes documentary evidence. these are my wife's comments who has read all Adams material.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gentry, 31 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class (Paperback)
Exactly what I have been looking for. I am keen on family and local history and this not only sets the scene but gives details of weather, political and agricultural changes that so affected life. It explains many of the puzzling incidents I had come across.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and informative book, 14 Oct 2012
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J. E. Michie "Herschelian" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Since reading 'The Gentry' I have recommended it to several people. If you are at all interested in British history - particularly, English history, and how England has been shaped, preserved and developed, this is a 'must' read.

As I live in China I first read it on my Kindle, but have subsequently bought a 'real' copy to keep on my shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent!, 4 July 2013
By 
LyzzyBee (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class (Paperback)
A spectacular and amazing book.

Nicolson takes the stories of various gentry families active during various times from the 1410s to the present day and uses a combination of meticulous research, beautiful writing and the ability to tell a good story to bring their lives, relationships and concerns vividly to life, capturing small details and personal testimonies and seeming to revel in the process himself.

The written documents are highlighted as an amazing source of information, perfectly preserved in all its details, and the families are placed within their context and social history. The book as a whole is moving, honest, not extrapolating past the sources into "must have felt" this and "should have done that", and letting the voices of the subject shine through - the best kind of history writing, in my opinion. Flexible like the families about notions of gentry, but also looking at how that term has been defined over the centuries. It brings us right up to date in the last chapters, skillfully weaving the experiences of the modern-day gentry into their context and history. Magnificent.
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Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class
Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class by Adam Nicolson (Paperback - 16 Aug 2012)
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