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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly blissful read., 10 Nov 2009
By 
D. Clark (Lincoln UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Serious Pleasures: Life of Stephen Tennant (Paperback)
This is quite simply the most captivating biography I have ever read. Reading Philip Hoare is like cosying up on a luxurious sofa and being exclusively confided in by an entertaining yet all-knowing friend.
Stephen Tennant was a fascinating and unique personality living an enchanted life with connections to many icons of the age. One of those rare books that you want never to end and worth it's weight in gold.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Twenties in colour, 2 Nov 2014
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I came to this biography of the Honourable Stephen Tennant via Philip Hoare's later, 'warts and all' biography of Noel Coward, which impressed so much by being so much less obsequious compared to another biography of 'The Master' that I'd read. I saw his first attempt at biography had been this one of Tennant, a notable 1920s society figure and by far the brightest of the 'Bright Young Things'. I was intrigued, especially when I heard that Tennant was the model for the doomed Sebastien Flyte in Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited'. Still, I couldn't find it on sale anywhere, until I found a copy on eBay on sale in the US: I purchased it and it promptly failed to arrive. Later, I noticed that Hoare had written the essay for a photo memoir of Pet Shop Boys, then later still heard their 'Bright Young Things' song, which name-checked various Brideshead-era lumineries, including Nancy (Mitford) and the instruction to 'pose for Stephen's camera..' Finally, I tracked down a copy of this memoir on Amazon and have not been disappointed. Whereas Stephen may not have been the exact inspiration of Sebastien, there's certainly echoes of him in that character, particularly his attachment to his Nanny, his angelic beauty and riding around in a gilt and glass Edwardian carriage. This is an exuberant biography of a larger-than-life character, a sort of monied, aristocratic version of Quentin Crisp: flamboyant, always perfumed and made-up, a man on speaking terms with the literary and social greats of his day (WW1 poet Siegfried Sassoon - his great love - the Sitwells, EM Forster, Virginia Woolf, Cecil Beaton et al). Hoare has had access to many people's remembrances and diaries, most notably perhaps the Queen Mum (!) but benefits from the fact that Stephen had a very close friend in the form of Cecil Beaton. Beaton's prolific correspondence with Stephen illuminates much of their shared experience and serves to illustrate how, with introduction to the right people during the 20s, Stephen made Beaton indispensable as a chronicler of the insanities of 'The Jazz Age', whilst also reflecting the artistic difference that grew between the two men once Beaton's career took off. For while Cecil's career as a photographer and later designer blossomed, as did that of another of his friends, the artist Rex Whistler, Stephen's talents for art and literature remained a private, 'gifted amateur' affair that never blossomed to maturity. Famously, he spent more than 40 years working on his novel 'Lascar' (which remained unpublished at his death) whilst giving friends, if not his publisher, regular updates on it's progress. Meanwhile, he turned his extraordinary family home at Wilsford into a private shrine to his own exotic taste and became something of a famously eccentric recluse, who nonetheless loved to a ripe old age and indeed outlived many of his contemporaries. The rich variety of letters and other sources that Hoare has consulted makes for some fascinating cross-cutting between Stephen and his contemporaries: Virginia Woolf, for example, comes across as someone who would complain dourly of her depression to her diary on a given day, perhaps with an eye to how history might posthumously judge her from her private thoughts, yet Stephen's entry for the same day would have described a fabulous lunch with VW and what good spirits he had left her in! He wasn't above a bit of bitchiness either: he gleefully recalls EM Forster describing a party held in honour of Noel Coward at which Coward 'spoke drivel all night long'. Though Tennant clearly captivates Hoare, the author is not beyond detailing some unflattering criticism - one American visitor to Stephen in his later years describes him as a fat, cross-dressing old gay. This book is never less than thoroughly entertaining, its subject so much larger than life that you feel Waugh must have toned down anything he took from ST for his character of Sebastien. They don't make them like this anymore. Make your way to it any way you can, it's well worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I only meant to read the introduction but as the ..., 24 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Serious Pleasures: Life of Stephen Tennant (Paperback)
I only meant to read the introduction but as the writing style flows so well I was into it before I realised . Well researched but , thankfully, not overly so. Just a very captivating read - I have waited a long time to get my hands on a copy and it was well worth the wait.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 2 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Serious Pleasures: Life of Stephen Tennant (Paperback)
I had been searching for a book on Stephen Tennant for a while. I could not put this book down when it arrived. Lovely pictures place you at the scene and you can relive the life of this eccentric man.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars serous pleasures, 13 Jun 2011
By 
John Towell - See all my reviews
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a truly magical character the epitome of the 1920s 30s i would have paid double the price written by the great philip hoare responsible for the magical noel coward lifestory i have seen this book on sale for the region of £100 and i would not have felt robbed had i paid it tried to get it from my local library but the single copy in the nottingham district people will not let go if you buy just one book in your life make it STEPHEN TENNANT SERIOUS PLEASURES
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars :), 27 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Serious Pleasures: Life of Stephen Tennant (Paperback)
Everything is OK, only arrived a bit to late ... something like a 10 days later then get information, but in other case everything is OK ... even copy is good, not damage - Thanks
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Tennant, 1 Mar 2013
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Ms. Christine Mcalpine (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Serious Pleasures: Life of Stephen Tennant (Paperback)
Even though the book is obviously second hand, I am so glad to have this book back in my library. I lent it and it was never returned. I had read it twice before and now I am settling down to my third read.
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Serious Pleasures: Life of Stephen Tennant
Serious Pleasures: Life of Stephen Tennant by Philip Hoare (Paperback - 25 Jun 1992)
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