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on 4 March 2016
Although I found this biography by Anne de Courcy really interesting, I think it would warrant a re-read simply because there are a lot of people in the book, which at times I found confusing. Very strong woman daughter of politician Henry Chaplin, became a political figure in her own right, and campaigner for women's suffrage. A book that I will certainly read again. Would appeal to anyone interested in Women's History.
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This is a highly readable account of the gilded lives of an aristocratic family from the last quarter of the nineteenth century into the post-war period. It describes very well the life of the privileged in this period - hunting, shooting, house parties, large houses with retinues of servants. However, the author seems to be in awe of the landed aristocracy and my criticism of the book would be that there is no critical analysis of the tremendous sense of entitlement that the Londonderries (and other aristocrats) had nor of their self-serving, self-regarding view of life.

Much of the source material is letters written by or to the Marchioness and therefore you don't expect much critcal analysis there but the author does not challenge anything or make any 'negative' observations about the life & behaviour of the Londonderry family to put matters in context. By way of example, the account of the failure of Stanley Baldwin to appoint Lord Londonderry as Air Minister with a position in the Cabinet does not reflect on why it should be that in the 1920's an aristocrat should assume that he should be in the cabinet, particularly as (although you wouldn't know it from this book) Lord Londonderry's previous government service had not been particularly notable. The account presented is sympathetic to Lord Londonderry and doesn't even attempt to question why he didn't get what he wanted. At another point in the book a rather derogatory comment about Jews was glossed over as being typical of the views held by many other people in his social circle - so that's alright then! With regard to Lady Londonderry, it amazes me that she tolerated her husband's serial philandering and continued to adore him throughout his life - again, there isn't any real analysis of why this might be.

Perhaps not surprisingly in view of its title, the book does not consider the declining position, status & power of the aristocracy during the Marchioness's life. Whilst the Londonderries may have been affected very late owing to their enormous wealth, Lady Londonderry's father, a landed gentleman and long-standing MP, suffered the practical elimination of his fortune & lost his estates. His story demonstrates the changing position, in terms of finances, land-holding & political influence of the landed class from 1870 onwards. There is nothing in the book which demonstrates the very great difference in the position of the aristocracy between the Marchioness's birth and her death.

The book is certainly a very interesting description of aristocratic life & social history - possibly worthy of 5 stars however because of the lack of analysis I have only given it three stars. That said, I enjoyed the book very much but would recommend reading it in conjunction with a more 'leavened' approach to set the story in context, for example David Cannadine's excellent book, "The Decline & Fall of the British Aristocracy".
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on 8 August 2013
I love history and I just loved this book, knowing nothing about the family until I started to read about them. As a regular visitor to the "North Country", which, by the way, has some of the most stunning countryside, villages and towns (Newcastle and Durham) being the stars, I now travel around looking at the Londonderry estates .... all gone now, of course! A great read for any history buff.
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on 17 March 2015
I'd not heard of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry before. But shame on me. This is a great biography, full of fascinating characters and a superb portrait of the 20th Century. The author really brings the personalities to life; and you grow to know and love them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it highly.
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on 14 February 2013
A most interesting book, but I didn't realise it was the book previously published as Circe so I needn't have bought it. The kindle version doesn't have the photos, which is a pity. A family tree would have been helpful. It's probably of more interest to those of us in Northern Ireland who are familiar with Mount Stewart, but it's a fascinating account of social aspects of the early 20th c and how a woman was able to influence politics....but makes me very glad I wasn't born in those days. Not much of a life for women, even the hugely rich.
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on 9 May 2014
Fascinating read. However, I should prefer to read more about her personal life although I am aware that she was a person of her generation and politics.
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on 7 May 2016
A panoramic view of the era that is very readable, engrossing and yet sympathetic to the heroine. It manages to convey historical information, the atmosphere of the time and the human side of politicians and society in general. A should read for anyone who wants to know about this time.
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on 17 August 2015
This was a great read, I couldn't put it down. A lovely insight into the past and the intriguing world of Lady Londonderry who, with her tattooed leg was quite a gal!
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on 4 September 2016
Found it rather laborious reading. Not the style I am used to from this exceptional writer.
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on 2 November 2015
Think its brilliant and on my shores what a beautiful place mount stewart is:)
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