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4.5 out of 5 stars
21
The Rare and the Beautiful: The Lives of the Garmans
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on 3 August 2017
A fascinating glimpse into the lives of a gifted and hedonistic family. Sometimes I loved them, sometimes I really didn't like them, but I always had to admire their passion and applaud their disdain of celebrity for themselves. I read it too quickly and was sad when I got to the end.
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on 29 July 2015
Good - the tangled saga of an artistic family between the Wars comparable to the Bloomsbury Group although they were more muses themselves by an author who must have had a slight connection.
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on 16 January 2017
Lost myself in this, wonderful!
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on 17 November 2017
A free-flowing read which has been enjoyable.
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on 30 July 2017
Received, thanks
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on 29 April 2012
It's been a while since I finished 'The Rare and the Beautiful' and my memory of it is fading fast but my memories are all good.

The Garman girls destroyed a lot of their personal letters. If they had survived, I'm sure an account of their lives would have truly sizzled. Yet Cressida Connolly has done a good job with what remains. The reader gets a real sense of what it would be like to have shared some time with Mary, Kathleen, Laura and their brother Duncan.

They were wonderful people (and terrible parents).

Their romanitic lives are brought to life. Lorrie Lee (Laura's lover) and Duncan Campbell (Mary's husband) walking in the spray and spume of a South African beach as if they were treading the Milky Way is a particularly evocative passage.

You get the impression Connolly would have been a kindred spirit to the Garmans, both good and bad. She seems as obsessed with celebrity as the Garmans were, keen to point out the status of even minor characters and desperately trying to link one of the minor Garman girls with Laurence of Arabia.

I was surprised (and a little disappointed) that the author didn't reproduce some of the Garmans' own art works (their painting was referred to a number of times) and I wondered why ... for practical reasons (copyright or expense) or vanity (the fact they would never match the works of their eminent spouses)?

I have always been fascinated by the world of art and the British art world of the twentieth century in particular (my school art teacher was taught by Henry Tonks, so I feel a connection). If you are too, you'll love this book.
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on 29 April 2006
This book is an absolute gem: it focuses on four people (three sisters, one brother) who had a big influence on early to mid-twentieth century art: Mary, Kathleen, Douglas and Lorna Garman. Even if you're not particularly interested in art, the human relationships in this book are fascinating

There were actually nine Garman siblings but Connolly is sensible enough to realise that she can't write about them all; the other five get mentioned throughout the book, which is often enough to see that the whole family was marked by independence and eccentricity, whether famous or not.

Mary and Kathleen were the two older girls, Douglas was the eldest boy and Lorna was the youngest (there were about twelve years between her and Mary, so she was still small when her two eldest sisters left). All of the Garmans were good looking. The poet Roy Campbell fell in love with Mary the moment he saw her; Kathleen caught the eye of Jacob Epstein (and held it until his death); Lorna, the most beautiful of them all, got married at sixteen (having seduced her husband when she was fourteen) and proceded to have extra-marital affairs left, right and centre ; Douglas divorced his wife and lived with Peggy Guggenheim, before marrying for a second time. All this during the 1920s/30s, when such actions were seen as dangerous, if not insane.

The various lives make fascinating reading: Mary and Roy lived a hand-to-mouth existence because of his poetry (Mary had musical talent but did not see it as her place to earn the money); Kathleen was not accepted in society because of her position as Epstein's mistress; Douglas went against his whole upbringing by becoming a Communist. However, there was a down side, and that is most obvious in the way the Garman siblings neglected their children: Mary left her two young girls to their own devices most of the time, either ignoring them completely or watching their every move; Kathleen left her children with their grandmother and occasionally visited them, but took more of a proprietary interest than a maternal one (she was considered a better aunt than a mother); Douglas cared very much for his daughter, but like his sisters, he thought the cause should come first.

Lorna, the youngest, gets a lot of page space: despite being married, she had affairs with both Laurie Lee and Lucian Freud (readers of "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning" may be interested to know that she is the Girl mentioned in that book). The affairs read almost like romantic fiction, because she had an eye for the dramatic like all the Garmans, and could drive people literally crazy with their feelings for her.

This is a slim book, but there is a lot to read; I only wish there were more on the other Garman siblings and the Garmans' descendants. Apart from that, this is a fascinating account, with many interesting pictures that bear up the reports of the Garman family beauty.
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on 31 December 2015
Traces the comings and goings of the Garman family that had links with the Bloomsbury set, the daughters were mistresses and wives to the sculptor Jacob Epstein, Lucian Freud and Peggy Guggenheim - altogether the rarified planes of the 1920s bohemian class - or those who could afford to be bohemian. Cressida Connelly, daughter of renowned Cyril Connelly who was also linked to all the above, has researched this previously ignored family of poets, writers and lover swoppers. She writes engagingly though here and there with some 'longueurs'. One of the Garman sisters, Mary, had a longstanding lesbian love affair with Vita Sackville West who became hugely famous.
A good read if you are interested in the period.
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on 19 December 2013
What an enthralling, dramatic, exotic read & it is all true; I could read it again & again. It reads like a novel but so many writers & artists were revealed & exposed in what really was mostly good fun. The Garman sisters were so bohemian, naughty, selfish,& utterly loveable. Todays Social Services would have a Field Day. Walsall Art Gallery has their private collection of paintings & memoirs, As a biography it is superb -I love it. It is rare and beautiful.
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on 7 March 2006
I first found out about The Walsall Art Gallery in the locally available Rough Guide To Rough Walsall. Spending a happy afternoon there viewing the superb Garman-Ryan collection led me to seek out this little gem of a book. The lives of the nine Garman siblings come vividly to life in this tale of life with the smart set between the wars. Some of the anecdotes will stay with me forever: Lucien Freud drunkenly groping his way up Butler's Passage and Jacob Epstein getting paralytic on snakebites in the Wharf particularly amused me. Having read this I am sure that a trip to Walsall will be the very next item on your list of things to do.
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