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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 12 October 2009
I bought this book in the hope it might be like Catherine Bailey's well-written and enthralling Black Diamonds but was very disappointed. It starts out promisingly enough with the first two chapters devoted to Evelyn Waugh's association with the Lygon family, who inspired Brideshead Revisited. Then the author returns to the Anglo-Saxon origins of Madresfield and it is here the tedium begins. Endless recitation of dull lifeless facts about the Lygons and even those ancestors whose lives were obviously full and interesting such as Fernando the corsair and Richard the seventeenth century botanist who went to Barbados and wrote about it fail to come alive under the author's pen. There are several chapters devoted to Puesyism and politics - dry subjects at the best of times but so boring I ended up skipping them and going to the final chapters dealing with the great scandal of Lord Beauchamp's homosexuality and details of what happened to the Lygons' after Brideshead.

Anybody hoping for signs of this book being "one of the best recent monographs on an English family and their country house.." as the blurb on the jacket proclaims will be disappointed. Almost nothing is made of the architecture or the interior of Madresfield apart from some glorious colour photos of some of the rooms and in using objects found in the house as chapter headings as in "The breviary", " the scrap of paper" and so on.

The writing is quite fawning in style, in that no critical word ever escapes the author's pen. Nor is there any evidence of any independent research being done. I am left with the impression that Jane Mulvagh was so overwhelmed at the privelege of being admitted to this most private of houses and its muniments that she took the greatest care not to offend the present members of the family at Madresfield. The result is a very dull book. Surely the Brideshead generation was not the only scandal in nine centuries?
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on 4 July 2008
Jane Mulvagh's book should be called The Lygons to be more accurate. She offers only tantalising glimpses into the house itself, using suspiciously round dimensions to describe the rooms, an implausibly high drawing room ceiling and throws away a comment about 60 bedrooms in her descriptions. If you are looking for a history of Madresfield you'd be better to read 'The Last Country Houses' or the Country Life articles, the latter of which don't make a mention in her bibliography. Her links from the brief descriptions of the house to the various family members are facile and 2 dimensional.

However as a history of the Lygon's the book is very good. It makes fascinating reading, particularly on the 20th century Lygons and offers glimpses to a very different way of life that was broken apart by scandal. The Brideshead Revisited inspiration seem undeniable and offers a realistic basis to a 20th century classic.

All in all a good book, but misleadingly titled.
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on 21 May 2011
i found this book a very interesting overview of the family tree of one family the Lygon/Beauchamp family which unfolded using the history of the family home Madresfield. The writer told the story like a tour of the house as a tour guide would and so intertwined the rooms build over different periods and the story of the people who lived there.
lots of great colour photos even in the paperback as well as additional black and white photos within the text.
the history of the family was also the history of England royalty, court cases, architecture and painting poetry and music.
it was between a textbook and a novel and there were parts where it flowed along quickly and some i found a bit heavy going.
The family was the basis for the novel Brideshead re visted by Evelyn Waugh who was a close friend of the family in the 1930s.I have never read that novel but i reckon I will now.
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VINE VOICEon 27 October 2008
Full credit for the way this book is laid out, taking a room or a feature and then relating it to a stage in the history of the Lygon family. The main interest for the ordinary reader will be the association with Brideshead Revisited, but there are other connections that are equally fascinating: with the fictional Jarndyce Case in Dickens, and with Edward Elgar. A small caveat on the latter - Mary Lygon is now thought not to be '****' in the Enigma Variations (ref Michael Kennedy), though this is not to deny that she had a close friendship with Elgar. Some excellent pictures, especially of the Arts and Crafts treasures at Madresfield Court.
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on 28 May 2016
An absorbing read, if only to display the general weirdness of parts of the British upper classes. However,as other reviewers have commented, this is a history of the Lygon family, not Madresfield as a house; references to the impact of a grand house and its estate on the surrounding countryside and its inhabitants are few and fleeting. The last post-Waugh (sic) half-century is glossed over.
As someone with family connections in the Malvern area, and an interest in railways, I am bemused by the references to a family private station, Hanworth Halt. There is no such palce; the authortative 'Railway Pasenger Stations in GB' (Railway and Canal Historical Society) doesn't list it and none of the other books on the rail history of the area mention such a place. Similarly, Lord Berners' home at Faringdon is quoted as being 25 miles away; it is at least 50 even as the crow flies. Trivial points maybe, but it does make a reader suspect the accuracy of other parts of the book.
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on 15 February 2016
I was disappointed at first with Madresfield. I wanted to know all about Hugh Lygon and his relationship with Waugh. But gradually the book opened up and I was bowled over by the wonderful bits of history that were dispersed with such ease. Not having the best of educations it was a joy to discover things unknown . William Lygon Seventh Earl is a wonderful figure, I couldn't believe it when he supported home rule in Ireland. But equally so I was aghast to discover how nasty some people could be for political and monetary gain. As a family they were just as abnormal and dysfunctional as us all. One day I hope someone makes a film based on this book concentrating on William. Many thanks Jane Mulvagh. One day I hope to visit Madresfield. A great read.
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on 6 January 2013
There is a dying fall to this book, the history of the ownership of Madresfield a not very distinguished country house. Waugh seems to have based 'Brideshead revisited' on the family, of whom he was a friend and houseguest, though he seems to have denied this was true. This book is written in a rather breathless style, almost as if it were a thriller which is at odds with the rather stately contents. However it is well worth reading if you enjoy a well researched history of titled folk.
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on 30 August 2015
I am a Ligon, descended from, but obviously generations removed, from this family. Both my brothers have been to Madresfield and it is my destination for next year's vacation. This book has given me so much more information about the estate and the family we're connected to, it has become my personal best investment in literature. My trip to Madresfield will be so much more enhanced because of this book, I am so thankful I was able to get a copy in such great shape for the price.
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on 12 September 2013
A brilliantly told story about the real Brideshead family. David Carradine's opening paragraph to Jane Mulvagh's fascinating book is worth the cost of the book alone. One can picture the house set near the Malvern Hills and the lively goings on in it. The whole story is sympathetically told by Jane Mulvagh, and the fact that the house has never been bought or sold in its' history makes the story even more unusual. An absolute gem, highly recommended.
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on 16 February 2014
I liked the unhurried pace of the book and the way it gave the reader a somehow intimate understanding and sympathy with a vast range of unfamiliar people - the ongoing generations of the Lygon family who have inhabited Madresfield for 5 or so centuries. An unusually well researched book and an unexpectedly good read.
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