on 4 April 2010
For anyone interested in the historical story-lines of the famous Pre-Raphaelite painter, Edward Burne-Jones, this is a fascinating read. At the end of his life he became enamoured of a high-class, society wife and wrote her hundreds of letters expressing this love and his feelings about his paintings. Dimbleby discovered this secret romance of her great-grandmother and went on a detective mission to discover what happened...full of photos and includes, after Burne-Jones death, the impact of WWI on May Gaskell and her daughters Amy and Daphne. Amy's portrait by Burne-Jones is one of his most famous privately commissioned paintings.
This is a well researched, very readable and interesting account of some of Josceline Dimbleby's ancestors and in particular about her great great grandmother, Emma Hill, her great grandmother, Helen Mary (May) Gaskell nee Melville and her great aunt, Amy Bonham. It's a very honest account in which the weaknesses of these and other persons appearing in the biography are aired on an equal level with their strong points. Some readers, more than others, will empathise with these real life characters, but the reader will find that he or she does not have to like them in order to enjoy this well researched, free from waffle account.
May Gaskell's relationship with the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Edward Byrne-Jones, with whom she exchanged a vast amount of correspondence, is of especial interest and readablity. One can only be saddened by the restraints imposed on May Gaskell by the mysoginistic standards of Victorian and Edwardian society as she struggled to realise her true self and capabilities trammelled as she was by its warped standards. Joceline Dimbleby has made such a good job of writing about other matters besides cookery that she should certainly consider writing at least one more non-cookery book.
on 17 May 2014
IT BECAME INCREASINGLY OBVIOUS FROM THE START, THAT THE FAMILY MEMBERS WANTED THEIR DESCENDANT, JOSCELINE DIMBLEBY, TO WRITE THIS BOOK OF THEIR LIVES AND RELATIONSHIPS. THERE WERE SO MANY 'CHANCE ENCOUNTERS' AS JOSCELINE PUT IT, TOO MANY 'COINCIDENCES'! IT WAS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JOSCELINE'S GREAT-GRANDMOTHER MAY GASKELL AND SIR EDWARD BURNE-JONES THAT CONNECTED ME TO THIS BOOK. I HAD WRITTEN AN ARTICLE ABOUT CICELY MARY BARKER, THE ARTIST MOST WELL-KNOWN FOR HER FLOWER FAIRIES, AND AS SHE LOVED THE WORK OF SIR EDWARD BURNE-JONES I MENTIONED THIS WHEN WRITING ABOUT OTHER PROMINENT ARTISTS OF THE PERIOD, WHICH LED ME TO THE WORK OF WRITER, ANGELA THIRKELL, GRANDAUGHTER OF SIR EDWARD. I AM READING ANGELA'S NOVELS, BUT WHEN I COULD NOT OBTAIN THE NEXT NOVEL IN SEQUENCE AND HAD TO WAIT FOR IT, I READ 'THREE HOUSES' WHICH TOLD THE STORY OF THE HOUSES PROMINENT IN HER CHILDHOOD, INCLUDING HER GRANDFATHER'S! THIS WAS THEN A STEPPING STONE TO JOSCELINE'S BOOK.
on 11 May 2004
I LOVED THIS BOOK. I finished it, and then read it all over again. You might expect it to be a boring family history, but it reads like a novel. Better than a novel, actually - because all the people (and secrets) are real... and you care about them so much - not least Josceline Dimbleby, who infects you with her fascination for the story. You feel it's a book that was written because it HAD to be written. There is nobody, of any age, that won't enjoy this. I'm going to save on hassle this Christmas and just buy this for everybody. Although... maybe I'll wait till 2005, till it's out in paperback. What's the point in hardbacks anyway? They're expensive, and they dig into your thighs. The publishing industry in this country needs to WAKE UP. Having said all that, if there's one book you should buy in hardback this year, it's this. I borrowed mine. Sorry Josceline Dimbleby.