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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story!, 4 Feb 2014
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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!
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those Wild Wyndhams, 10 Feb 2014
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S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Those Wild Wyndhams: Three Sisters at the Heart of Power (Kindle Edition)
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.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and beautifully written - a lovely book, 17 Feb 2014
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bookelephant (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Those Wild Wyndhams: Three Sisters at the Heart of Power (Kindle Edition)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars extraordinary lives, 21 Mar 2014
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Fascinating, but I want to know what happened to all the families and their descendants! Such guilded lives ended with the first war.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Living History, 20 Mar 2014
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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!
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4.0 out of 5 stars At the heart of power?, 7 Mar 2014
I enjoyed reading about the social and family lives of these glamorous and rather self obsessed women. The political parts of the book were less engaging. The sisters knew men at the heart of British government but I couldn't see that they had much influence on power or policy. The sections on politics sometimes fit awkwardly into the narrative about the sister's lives. Their story is well told and is sometimes very touching.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a brief recommendation, 23 Mar 2014
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This book combines family history with national history. It is well-resaearched & well-wriitten. It might be caviare to the general: i.e. an interest in history & the upper classes is , perhaps, called for. Most people, though, would shaed a tear i the the great War chapter when my gt grandmother--yes, I have apersonal interest in this story--among so many others lost her two favourite sons. My grandfather survived.
Fionn morgan
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