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on 4 December 2008
I really looked forward to the publication of this, but have waited some time after reading it to enter a review, in an attempt to give a balanced picture.

The writing is a bit breathy and disjointed, as though it was dictated - not what I had expected, as I normally enjoy her columns. No one can deny that she has led a very eventful life, firstly as the step-child of a diplomat, then as the wife of Nicholas Luard. Lots of juicy name-dropping too. In writing about other countries, and often the food, she is excellent, but for the first half of the book she is so naive I WANTED TO SHAKE HER!!!!!

Of an earlier generation, she took her marriage vows seriously, but appears to have worn blinkers as well, not even guessing what her husband was up to. Maybe that attitude was common then - certainly not now. I would have awarded 3 stars for the book .....

BUT.... I was moved to tears by the passages in which she describes his long, slow death after years of alcohol abuse. Every alcoholic should read these passages while they still have time for recovery, or pray that they have such supportive spouses. This part is worthy of 5 stars.

She loved her husband, enjoyed him for who he was, and stood by him without counting either the women or the empties (the latter is her admission). Overall, a fascinating picture of a marriage.
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on 27 July 2013
This was my first encounter with the writing of Elisabeth Luard. Though she indicates she didn't consider herself a writer when she first took up her pen, she writes engagingly (comparing her writing to that of her famous husband's in starting out, she felt he was gifted while she was but a self-taught observer). She is unflinchingly honest and her evocations of place are beautiful. And indeed, what a fascinating life she has led. I found most moving her devotion to her children and grandchildren, particularly the brief description of the death of her oldest daughter, while still in her "sunshine" years, to AIDS.

The book's title is accurate, it deals with her time as a wife. She declares her love for her husband - and this was presumably the bond that gave her the resolve to remain married through more apparent downs that ups. And this for me was the problem in the telling of Ms. Luard's story. From the start of their marriage, she says nothing of any good things her husband Nicholas may have contributed to her life. Instead, she details one problem after another for which he was responsible (from serial philandering and reckless drinking to repeated absences and a dilettante approach to earning a living and providing for his family). Surely there must have been some, providing a counterbalance to the repeated challenges he threw her way. And if there were none, then her reasons for remaining tethered, often in name only to Mr. Luard, are unclear, especially given her strength of character and clear vision so palpable throughout her narrative.

I eagerly began the postscript thinking this will be where she addresses my questions and gives some insight into the love for and from her husband; a summary of that life as a wife. But it deals with other things and she simply notes she spread her husband's ashes after his death among trees at their home in Wales, and if he was unhappy with this memorial, the trees will not prosper.
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on 24 October 2011
I have read both books about Elisabeth Luard's family life and cookery travels. This book makes up the very readable trio. It's also, to those born in the 40's and early 50's, an interesting social history.
It tells of her marriage to a man with a drink problem, whom she described as more a demolisher than a builder! He seemed to do as he pleased, she loved him throughout. She may have been born upper class but she did not have the upper hand. I applauded her tolerance and her ability to write with honesty, warts and all.
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on 25 August 2014
A very enjoyable companion piece and corrective to 'Family Life', with an engaging and wise authorial voice with much to reflect upon. It's breadth is admirable and always humane, but honest too in it's experience of hurt, family division and addiction. Really interesting.
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on 15 June 2015
This book was a bit of a mish mash, flitting about from here to there "rewind to a year previously" Ms Luard says at one point. No, tell me what happens chronologically!

I suppose if it had been a happy marriage the book may have been a bit dull. It wasn't dull, as such, though the name dropping got a bit tiresome. But I suppose if all your friends are well-known then there's not much you can do about that.
I think some things may have been meant to be funny - the Christine Keeler incident and the au pair incident and the Madeleine incident. Personally I found it all very dreary and depressing. What can you say about a man who lets his wife have four children interspersed with several miscarriages and a stillbirth while having a fine old time with half the women in London and lots of drunken mates? Nothing good.

And then when he was ill because he was drinking himself to death back he comes to be looked after by her.

Her life, her choice to stick with him. I just don't know why she did.
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on 31 May 2013
Lovely crafted writing do read this book anyone from the 60s generation will appreciate the people she has encountered and written about
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on 24 April 2016
Absorbing tale of a strong woman's life, and boy was she strong... didn't want it to end...
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on 7 June 2016
Well written and enjoyable life with the added extra of some very good recipes!
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