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on 7 November 2001
Having been to 18 Folgate Street only a month ago, I can say that the book very much evokes the spirit of the house. The house is awesome on its own, but Severs' "voice" is what is missing. Since it was his private residence, only his own words can truly bring it to life, and the book does that with flair. That he began as a storyteller is evident in his sense of drama.
Sometimes the "space between" concept seems a bit overblown. However, the book explains very readably the fashions of the time, and how 18th-century homeowners viewed their homes (and how Dennis Severs perceived his). There is a good balance between the factual and the atmospheric, and the ambience is well captured by the photographs. 18 Folgate Street is truly a one-of-a-kind place, and even if you don't have the chance to visit the house, this book is a must-read. Turn out the lights, light a few candles and settle in for a good read. It's almost as good as being there.
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A visit to 18 Folgate Street is a unique and special "theatrical event". This book recreates the experience well for those who are not able to go there in person and allows them to engage - albeit in a limited way - with the personality of Dennis Severs its charming and eccentric visionary creator. To criticise Severs for his views, flamboyance, and "mission" or the colourful prose or high-camp aesthetic of his venture is as regretful as telling a young child there is no Father Christmas. Severs is in love with the magic, mystery and lyricism of the past and his house in Folgate Street embraces and realises his vision to capture this - to perfection and his book makes a valiant attempt to achieve this too. I loved it for its quirky ambition. It is a delightful and well produced, enduring momento - a charming memory of the wonderful experience which many people who visit - and who can appreciate the magic and wonder central to Severs being, will surely have enjoyed. And for others it provides a glimpse of what they cam expect to participate in - if they make the "pilgrimage".
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 October 2011
This is an atmospheric and evocative book. Why only 3 stars then? Because everything Severs was trying to do in this house exists, as he puts it, in "the spaces in between"; it is in the half-overheard, the unsaid, the glimpsed. Impossible, of course, to do this in a book; a hard object full of printed words. However, Severs has a jolly good go at it and the results are intriguing and enjoyable, even if they can't possibly replicate the actual experience of the house with its dim lighting, noises and smells. So if, in one sense, this book is a failure, (though I for one wouldn't go that far) it is a magnificent one.

For those who don't already know, Dennis Severs was an American who fell in love with England; specifically with the London of the 18th century. Long before it was trendy (he helped create the trend) he bought a semi-derelict house in Spitalfields - 18 Folgate Street, of course - and set about not an academic restoration, but a recreation of the feeling of the past.

He used whatever materials came to hand, few of them historically exact, and covered up the stageyness of it by restricting the lighting. He lived in the house while doing it (I remember reading a magazine article decades ago, when the process had hardly started)and scavenged for objects to furnish it with whatever money he had available. The end result wasn't a museum or a National Trust style house-open-to-the-public, but a work of art, a poem, a play. Visitors, in small groups, were taken round by Severs who encouraged them to let slip their intellectual faculties and suspend disbelief; to enter into this latter-day fairy tale. Every prop, every bit of scene-setting, the "noises off" carefully taped a replayed at the appropriate time; all was designed to help us step into "the space between".

In this book, Severs has done his best to recreate the experience of going round the house, while filling in some of the biographical and technical background of his achievment. He succeeds up to a point in getting us to understand what the experience of the house must be like, but in the end we are reading a clever text and he cannot, of course, duplicate the emotional and theatrical impact. In the very nature of things, Severs is best at using objects, sounds and smells to work his art, and though the book is well-written the effort to convey the ineffable sometimes becomes mannered, even a little precious. If this starts to irritate you, check yourself; the book is worth persevering with. Dozens of superb, moody photos do help us in this interesting exercise of the imagination.

The book will be useful to many, especially as the numbers who can go round the house with Severs' successors as curators are necessarily very limited. If you find his poetic and rather winsome manner irritating, you are probably one of the people who wouldn't "get" the house anyway. Artists, film-makers, writers and those interested in domestic history should probably all read it.
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on 11 January 2013
I had long been meaning to visit Dennis Severs' house in Folgate Street and imagined that the book would give me a taste of the experience. I gave up two thirds through, finding myself so frustrated by the voice of the author telling me what I should think. It seemed to me that he was telling me that he was special, he had created a special place and that if I was special too I would "get it." I became irritated by constant instructions "Time to stop being. Time to start thinking." "You must close your eyes to help you to see." He doesn't like questions and mocks the visitor who wants to know more about the objects assembled in the house. He is often condescending "To me art is beauty in balance. And if you can't rise above the street business of identifying things...then art is not your level. Tonight, pigeonhole intelligence is not going to win by ruining the pictures I paint in the spaces between us." Throughout he appears to me to be saying that if you don't see it how he wants it to be seen, if you question his vision, if you don't get it, you are lacking, so of course the visitor/reader, not wanting to seem obtuse or lacking in imagination accepts Severs' vision. A bit like the Emperor's new clothes nobody wants to say what they really see in case they look foolish.
However to me art as well as being the vision of the artist is also what the audience, the reader the viewer makes of it, it creates an emotional, intellectual or physical response, it does not have to all be explained and if the viewers response varies from what the artist anticipated that does not make that response invalid.
So overall I found this rather preachy and self indulgent, but I would have loved to have met the late artist and heard what he thought about it.
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on 5 April 2015
After visiting 18 folgate street earlier this year, I desperately tried finding information about the history of the house and about dennis severs passion in creating a world to be drawn into. This book has not only reminded me of the emotional rollercoaster of journeying through the various chapters of the house but has made me eager to return and immerse myself again. A fascinating incite into history. Brilliant.
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on 20 May 2013
The book is amazingly factual, couldnt put it down - and cant wait to visit this house it is such an amazing concept!
No problems with selller, as expected, would use again
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on 28 June 2016
Excellent if you are going to visit the house or have already visited. Many interesting historical anecdotes and Dennis Severs thinking behind this remarkable house, amost enjoyable read.
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on 21 May 2013
It is written a bit strangely but do stick with it. The author talks to you as though he is actually giving you a tour around the house himself. Interesting pictures.
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on 22 December 2015
A beautiful area of London, which is under threat from developers
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on 28 December 2014
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