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4.3 out of 5 stars34
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 25 May 2012
An absorbing way to chart your path through English politics and society in the late 18th century is through Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The 3rd Duke of Dorset was briefly her lover, until she replaced him with Charles Grey. He was also the lover of Giovanna Zanerini (google the name and look at Gainsborough's playful portrait of her). What a guy - I'd love to watch him work the room at a 1780s London soiree. He installed La Baccelli at Knole, while he was England's Ambassador to France on the eve of 1789's Revolution. A keen cricketer, there is a wonderful speculation by G.M. Trevelyan repeated in this book: "If the French noblesse had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants (as the English aristocracy and their tenants and labourers did), their chateaux would never have been burnt." Indeed, the book is full of similar anecdote associating the Sackvilles with the Great & Good they have been mixing with for centuries. JP Morgan is in here, alongside Nell Gwynn, Wallis-Simpson and the Cecils. Thomas Sackville, the patriarch of Knole and its descendants, was the Lord Treasurer who replaced the inordinately influential William Cecil before passing the mantle on to the latter's son, Robert Cecil. You can just imagine Walsingham creeping around at night in search of his next political victim.

Where's this going?

The author has done us all a great service by bringing history alive through the lens of this house and his formidable ancestry. (I haven't even mentioned Vita, because that's a subject all of its own.) There is no single good reason to pick it up, but once you do, you'll notice that your heart has been warmed up a little by the sense of wonder transmitted by his calm, learned enthusiasm. I won't comment on the house, because my opinions on it are worthless, but the spirit of the place is fascinating and I will keep going back to the buildings for a repeat prescription of the karma those walls are lined with. The stories he tells are more sad than happy, but so very human and hence of personal significance to all of us. Does this make the book a unique achievement? In my view, yes, because he has given Knole a complicated personality, one built on varieties of joy and pain through the centuries. Visit the house after reading this book and you can look outside in at your own dilemnas - before calmly accepting that you'll never solve them. Life goes on.
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on 16 November 2011
Studying History at Oxford must have given Robert Sackville West suitable ammunition to undertake this book for which, as 7th Lord Sackville, he has a headlong advantage !

What strikes me most about this book is the evenhandedness meted out to ancestors and their friends and followers. Without in any way covering up for foibles and failures there seems to be no axe to grind, no personal judgement expressed in this very honest history of Knole. It is touching also that Robert (on his own account) is on good terms with the National Trust who now own the house, as they have been criticised for becoming too much of a marketing brand like the late not overlamented Trust House Forte !

If you are like me, you will have to refer very frequently to the Family Tree, suitably provided before the Preface, because the successions are more than once a little complicated, and this display helps establish the proper backbone to the story. The colour plates of ancestral portraits and family photographs are also well chosen and add to the enjoyment of the book.

The book is almost in two halves : the first part involving considerable work with historical archives, and the second much more reliant on family letters and reminiscences. The latter start with the extraordinary story of Lionel, the 2ed Lord Sackville's romantic alliance with a dancer, commonly known as Pepita, and the book from that point on practically seems to run on greased tracks, with Vita Sackville West and her friend Virginia Woolf having latterly contributed so much to our knowledge of Knole by their novels and personal correspondence.

I can thoroughly recommend this book although a desire to be historically accurate has had ascendency over the potential to mischievously exploit the humour in certain stories.
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on 14 May 2010
Inheritance is the story of a house and a family over 400 years of British history.

Robert Sackville-West combines meticulous scholarship with an easy readable style - a combination not often seen. He also manages to achieve a historian's detachment and respect for the facts despite being the heir to the Sackville name and to Knole.

This book is above all a damn good read. The author keeps us turning the page, eager to learn what comes next in the extraordinary history of an English aristocratic family and one of the grandest homes in the land.

The book is mercifully free from either hagiography or sentimentality. I recommend it heartily.
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on 29 March 2011
My husband bought me this book for our anniversary. I've always loved The Knole, and the beautiful deer park it's nestled in - so this book gave me a proper insight into the family that built and lived in it. Having been born & bred in Kent, I could really appreciate the Sackville's love for the county - even though their burial vault is in a tiny church in East Sussex!!! The Sackville's are an interesting bunch...lots of juicy scandals, and "friendships" - at times I forgot I was reading a biography and thought I was reading a novel! I would certainly recommend this book to anyone with a love of History - and if you just happen to love The Knole as much as I do - you won't be disappointed. Enjoy!
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on 25 March 2013
This is a well written and entertaining book. The story is as much about the family who lived at Knole, the very large and beautiful property in Sevenoaks, as about the house. It is is the story of a typical aristocratic family- not particularly talented, self indulgent and adulterous. In fact like a lot of ordinary families, only with more money and somewhat inbred. An injection of peasant Spanish DNA at the end of the 19th century was balanced by a marriage of cousins. It produced the most (only?) famous member of the family, the gay Vita Sackville-West.
The Sackvilles were both the beneficiaries and victims of their inheritance. Knole and their other property were always there, like some demanding mother. The author deserves credit for bringing it all to life, and comes over as remarkably sane, given his heritage. All is nice and dull now, or will some other Sackville writing in the 22nd century reveal that the second half of the 20th century was the most scandalous of all? We won't know.
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on 15 January 2014
If you enjoy history you will find this book a really good read. The author has written the history of Knole and his ancestors who lived and loved and fought over this inheritance. I "googled" Knole and was sad to see that this historic house needs so much attention and money to restore it. Hopefully the Sackville heirs and the National Trust will be able to do so.
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A fascinating and well researched slice of history-I am looking forward to visiting Knowle in person now-well done for taking the time to write this.
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on 14 February 2014
I have only rated this book with three stars as there is no doubt it is extremely well written and well researched but I can't, for the life of me, imagine who it would appeal to other than members or friends of the Sackville family. We are left in no doubt that the Sackvilles were extremely well connected and very adept at social climbing and are given, in minute details, all their purchases and financial affairs over the generations. After a few chapters this becomes incredibly tedious reading. The depth of research and prose strikes one as more in keeping with a Ph.D. thesis than a story that would appeal to the general public. The quote from the Literary Review on the cover, "A gripping read, as good as any novel..." is totally incomprehensible. It becomes mildly more interesting as it gets more up to date but even then there is no real compulsion to finish the book. Boring would be too strong a word and would detract from the undoubtedly first class research that has gone into it. For the general reader, however, it is no page-turner and "gripping" it most certainly is not. "Tedious" would perhaps be more apt and I'm sorry to say if one is looking for an interesting read that keeps the reader's rapt attention and desire to know "what happens next' then this is not the book for them.
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on 1 August 2011
This is a sharp, laid back little treasure - which you may leave round the house for interest or keep under your belt for your own children to inherit. "Inheritance"
is a spanking good read and I am sure that you will enjoy the style as much as the insight into Robert's mind as, of course, his "inheritance". "Like love letters left around the house" in the author's own words.
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on 27 March 2014
Very detailed and as such its quite a difficult book to follow, but the detailed history is fascinating, what more can I say
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