33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2008
This is history at its best - it's readable, compelling and thoroughly enjoyable. Tinniswood's book achieves many goals in one - a fascinating social history, meticulous biography, powerful family saga, and not least it is a really good and engaging read.
The tale begins with Sir Francis Verney who ran away from his teenage wife in 1608, sold off much of the Verney property, converted to Islam and became one of the most feared pirates on the Barbary Coast. Carry on to read about Bess, who ran off with a clergyman; Cary, a heavy gambler, and Henry who was obsessed with horse racing; not to mention those involved in the English Civil War; Mall, who became pregnant out of marriage, or one of the later relatives who was hanged at Tyburn. A really good and compelling portrait of seventeenth-century England, and especially the Verney family. The history is based predominantly on the extensive records of the Verneys, particularly hundreds of letters kept by Sir Ralph Verney (1613-96) who presided over Claydon House in Buckinghamshire for over 50 years.
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2007
Adrian has taken the collected letters of the Verneys and turned them into a fascinating story of life in the Civil War and Restoration. The Verney family characters are all uniquely human with frailties and aspirations that are recognisable today, especially in how Sir Ralph Verney tries to maintain the family fortunes, have his sons shoulder responsibilities and marry well with large dowries. The women are not in the background and show how they rebel to the strictures placed on them by society.
Adrian's own views stay in the background except for some, for him, shocking revelations as to personal conduct. Its a surprisingly readable page turning insight into how an aristocratic family copes with being torn apart by the Civil War, with parallel in today's world
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2008
I've just finished this book and found it hard to put down. The 17th Century was a time of massive change in England and for that reason alone, this book is fascinating. However, if you take the history away, this is a story of the lives, loves, triumphs and tragedies of a family. It reads like a soap opera with happy marriage, unhappy marriage,struggling to make ends meet, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, criminality, birth, premature death, love, laughter and grief.
If you liked "By the Sword Divided" ( If you're old enough to remember!) then I heartily recommend this book to you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2013
'The Verneys' is based on a huge collection of letters kept by two generations of Verneys (a Buckinghamshire noble family) that was rediscovered in the 19th century. The book follows three generations of Verneys, including a renegade pirate ending up on the Barbary coast, a courtier of James I & Charles I who was killed at the battle of Edgehill, his son who struggled to keep the family going in the turbulent times of civil war and restoration and finally his sons, one of whom became a trader operating out of Aleppo. Tinniswood's writing is great - he knows what he is talking about and inserts some humor wherever possible. All in all a very fascinating look into the seventeenth century.
on 27 November 2011
A tale of divided loyalties within the Verney family during the English Civil War, when father Sir Edmund battles with his own conscience as a Protestant yet remains loyal to his King Charles 1 for whom he eventually dies in battle as standard bearer. Meantime his son Ralph as an MP swears allegiance to the Earl of Essex and the Parliamentarians despite loving his father dearly.
It also portrays a fairly grim picture of womens' roles in the 17th century,often married at fifteen or earlier, pregnant at sixteen and with several children by the age of twenty. Marriage was all about the size of the "portion" or financial settlement from the wifes' family, and was not necessarily happy. Yet the Verney women offered plenty of diverse contrasts to the meek and obedient norms of behaviour expected, from Ralph's wife Mary who campaigns to save the Verney estate, to the madness and appalling treatment received by her daughter in law, and rebellious granddaughter Molly who marries her true love clergyman in secret.
The role of the heir in 17th century England is particularly engaging; as the new head of the Verney family in 1642 Sir Ralph continued his parliamentary duties, managed the Verney estates and finances, arranged marriage settlements,and became involved with any number of other family members and issues. The plight of his less fortunate 12 siblings is well contrasted.
One of those rare non fiction books that is so comprehensively researched (from 10,000 letters by the Verney family)that impacts, changes and effects are quantified.From the struggles to keep the Verney family and their estate viable, to the number of appalling casualties in battle, to early trading agreements with Turkey and Barbados. Yet it is still easy to read, highly engaging and all the more credible for it.If you like A N Wilson's "The Victorians" then you'll like this book.
on 11 September 2011
What makes The Verneys: Love, War and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England such a compelling read is its fascinating portrayal of the social history of generations of the Verney family in the 17th century. It is a true story based on a surviving treasure trove of thousands of family letters. Adrian Tinniswood has cleverly chosen not to write a conventional history book with a myriad of references but rather a biographical social history novel. The book provides a remarkable insight into the life and social behaviour of this well to do family in the 17th century and defies some of the popular beliefs regarding the social etiquette of the time.
Adultery and divorce were though of as a prerogative of men and bonds of real affection were tied up with the pursuit of wealth and dynastic alliances. The Verney men conformed to these norms. Most pursued arranged marriages, some worked out and some didn't. They often engaged in open extra-marital affairs which are well described throughout.
The Verney ladies are a surprise to the reader as they often defied the status quo. Molly, the heiress, eloped, Pen married her sister's unbefitting boyfriend, another married a roman catholic which was possibly the greatest scandal of all at the time, another spent a brief time in jail, Mall became pregnant by a servant and married him.
In summary, the Verneys is an exhaustive tale or perhaps drama of generations of the family incorporating detailed accounts of adventure, travel, madness, exile and politics and of course family intrigues, deaths, marriages etc. My only small criticism would be that whilst compelling, in parts it is a trifle too long drawn out.
on 17 November 2013
this is a wonderful book. I was recommended to read this by a work colleague as historical novels are not my usual reading material. However I was enthralled by this family and what made it more worthy was the fact that it was based on true account of peoples lives from letters written. The power of the pen never ceases to amaze me, and it is a sad thought that children today know how to text and twitter, but rarely write a letter!
This book is a definite must read book for anyone as the people draw you into their lives, but it is difficult to put down, so allow yourself time to get into the book.
on 5 August 2015
Wow, and you think life today is complicated! A great family saga, especially since
it's based on the truth. An excellent read and one heartily recommended.
on 25 October 2015
on 30 December 2014