Most helpful critical review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Admirably researched, replete with personages
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.