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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Among the Bohemians, 15 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 (Kindle Edition)
The author Virginia Nicolson is perfectly placed to write a book about the lives of Bohemian artists and writers before the Second World War - daughter of Quentin Bell and granddaughter of Vanessa Bell - she presents a sympathetic and engrossing portrait of this time, and those people, who tried to 'live for art' and rejected many of the rules society tried to impose. In this book she discusses what a bohemian actually was, the romance (or squalor) of poverty, free love, the children born to these unconventional families, the arts and crafts movement, fashion, food , domesticity, travel and friendship.

Of course, living outside of the social mores of society was liberating for many but, for those who had little choice in the matter, such as the children, it was often disorderly or neglectful. Caspar John, one of Augustus John's many sons, joined the navy after a life of no restrictions. It was his way of rebelling and looking for structure and he became very successful, becoming the Admiral of the Fleet and eventually being knighted and a member of the establishment in a way that would have outraged his parents.

Much of this book seems to recount behaviour which is self indulgent and often thoughtless, other parts make you applaud the tolerance and acceptance of those outside of the norm. However, often the ideal is not perfect in reality. Free Love sounds wonderful, but jealousy could rear it's head and, for women especially, having a child outside of marriage was not acceptable in those times. As always, it was women who suffered the consequences of bringing up the children and looking after the house with men often rejecting such domesticity as beneath them. Neglect of the home and children often seemed easier than the hard work involved in doing tasks most of society employed servants for and poverty more crushing than romantic. Overall, though, the author presents an interesting and enlightening portrait of those times and of the positive aspects of a group of people who lived to create art and literature and who tried to be true to their belief in a new way of doing things.
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