Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop Cyber Monday Deals Week in Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen in Prime Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars26
4.4 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2014
This is an impressively researched historical account with the requisite historical background (succinctly summarised if sometimes simplified) and social context, and the author draws on rich resources, primarily the correspondence of the Wyndham sisters. It’s a good story, too, with exciting grand events (the struggle for home rule in Ireland, Gordon’s defeat at Khartoum, the Boer War), emotional intrigue (unwanted pregnancies, flirtations, courtships, confidences) and social drama among the upper classes (marriages, illnesses, bequests, country house visits). Its primary flaw, however, is that the forest gets lost for the trees: there are so many interesting characters-- not only the Wyndham sisters themselves but their parents and children and brothers and numerous other relatives and friends and lovers as well as prominent figures of the time in politics (Gladstone, Disraeli) and the arts (Burne-Jones, Rossetti, William Morris, John Singer Sargent, Henry James)—that this reader cannot finally sympathise very much with anyone. This is extremely disappointing, as Claudia Renton has obviously worked extremely hard to produce an account of people and places and an era that in this book fascinates as much as it frustrates.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2014
I have just started reading this wonderful book and am totally captivated!

The historical anecdotes and the relationships of the various characters create an utterly compelling and absorbing read.

This is not only a book for anyone interested in Edwardian England but also for anyone who loves an emotional and elegantly-written, true story!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
In 1898, John Singer Sargent began the portrait of three sisters: Mary, Madeline and Pamela Wyndham. The Wyndham Sisters was heralded as Sargent’s masterpiece, with the Prince of Wales calling it, “The Three Graces.” In this book, the author chronicles the times of these three cultured, beautiful and aristocratic women, who as members of The Souls, mixed with those in positions of political influence, as well as artistic circles.

This book straddles both the Victorian and Edwardian age. Parents Percy (youngest son of Lord Leconfeld) and Madeline (from a prominent Irish family, but without a fortune) had a marriage full of affection and love –although, as life always is, not without its difficulties. Their eldest child was daughter Mary, followed by sons George and Guy. The two youngest daughter, Madeline (always known as Mananai, after childish attempts to say her name) and Pamela, were close in age and naturally paired off together. Although the boys were educated at Eton, like many parents at that time, a good education was not thought essential for girls at that time. Mary was almost self-taught and governesses gave basic lessons.

Throughout this biography, we follow the marriages, love affairs, scandals and tragedies of the sisters. The sisters were involved with just about everyone in aristocratic, political and artistic circles – we are taken from the desert in Egypt, to the pomp of India during the Raj and to scandals which rocked the Souls (Harry Cust and Nina Welby) and society (Oscar Wilde and Bosie Douglas). The author does a great job of noting the political events that are important throughout the book, but always keeping the book personal and not overshadowing the characters. However, one world changing event which did completely dominate and change the world of the Wyndham’s, and their friends and acquaintances, were the cataclysmic events of the First World War - which comes near the end of the book. You gather that while those who lost early in the war were obviously mourned, the terrible loss of life led to a real stunned sense of disbelief by the end of the war. A whole generation of men were wiped out and the losses changed the Wyndham family, as it did so many others, at that time.

Overall, this is an excellent biography. It is well written, never sight of the personal over the historical, but keeping a good sense of perspective. Very enjoyable and paints a picture not only of three very interesting women, but also of a whole era.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2014
Yes, it's full of interesting personages and gives a good picture of high society in the early 20th century, but oh dear it's hard going. Too many people, often with the same or similar names; a muddled and muddling time line; no very clear narrative. The research put into this book really deserved better from the publisher: some strong constructive editing would've weeded out the occasionally clunky, slangy language and sorted out the time line, making the book easier to read. I was interested at first, but eventually more exasperated as the three sisters' stories dodged back and forth in time, and I lost my grip on who was who. Overall it could have, and should have, been so much better, given the basic material the author had to work with.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2014
Sargent's group portrait of the Wyndham sisters is, in essence, a portrait of Victorian privilege at its most elegant. The spacious room (the family's mansion in Belgrave Square), the impossibly complex clothes, the entitled posture of the sitters; all suggest a world insulated from want and sadness. What Claudia Renton does with skill and tenderness in this lovely book is to show us not just the real people behind this illusion of perfect grace - the miscarriage on which Mananai was dwelling as she sat, the frustrations of talented, demanding Pamela, the almost impossible reserves of patience which Mary brought to her dysfunctional marriage - but also a portrait of the world in which they lived, and how that world disappeared before their eyes.
So we get to glimpse the life of astonishing ease and beauty into which the girls were born, the privileged coterie (the Souls) of which they and their various men formed a part; and how that coterie assumed that ease and power would be theirs. And then we see how the talented stars of their generation somehow failed to achieve pre-eminence, but were nonethless close enough to power to be heartbreakingly complicit in the making of a war which was to take away some of their own most beloved and brilliant children.
Finally one sees the world into which the girls were born dismantled: their childhood home stripped of its treasures, rented out, reduced, as other members of their circle turn to desperate expedients to live in the houses of their fathers.
As for the Wyndham women each, with her different voice, gives us a window on this world of excitement, promise, change and disappointment, leaving us with a sense of having, albeit briefly, joined them.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 27 November 2014
The Wyndham sisters were eminent wives and hostesses at the turn of the 19/20th century, and knew all the politicians and society of the time.
This book is full of vignettes of history, bits and pieces of lives that make the historical characters more real and understandable.
Life at this period, the high Edwardian times, was the aristocracy at its peak. And it makes for a fascinating read.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 August 2014
It is one of those books that fascinates one who has an interest in the ruling classes and the influence of women from within. Whilst they did not make policy it is clear that these women were highly educated and informed on th topics of the days and had opinions.
The first world war is covered in a detailed fashion that makes it clear why so many men were lost.
A great read.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 March 2014
They didn't have the vote, but those Wyndham girls influenced the elite cabal who ran our country at the height of its global power. Well researched and written with fascinating personal insights on famous historical figures like Winston Churchill, Edward Grey and many more in the run up to the 1st World War. Very readable. I'm going to read it again!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 January 2015
Having a picture of these girls in my bedroom, I have longed to know the story behind the picture of these sisters, so am most delighted to read this wonderful account of their lives, which I am greatly enjoying.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 November 2014
Riveting! Having long been interested in the Wyndham family, was delighted to find at last, such an interesting book telling of this distinguished family! Loved it!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Customers who viewed this item also viewed


Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.