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on 23 November 2012
Guinness tells the story of Tibradden, a house and farm near Dublin - how it came into her family, how she ended up living there as a girl, and later returned to live there as a young woman with her uncle Charles and her fiance. A funny, poignant memoir of a family, and sensitive portrayal of a landscape - truly excellent.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 20 December 2012
Selina Guinness has written an Irish story that revolves around an Anglo-Irish estate, a derelict site on the outskirts of Dublin earmarked for property development rather than traditional agricultural produce. The land's plans hit a nerve. Why should this be changed from it's old 'background wash and colour'? Guinness's home in Tibradden, on a 120 acre estate, exists despite a 19th century sell out; a rendition of the trials and tribulations of modern Ireland taken back through tradition and history. Decisions have to be made based on economic rather than the emotional past. This inevitably involves the longstanding farm-working Kirwan family. Emotions run high and lead to personal dilemmas. This is written by Guinness in a style of prose that is beautifully poetic at times.It is a book of depth and attachment to the period and lifestyle with attendant care for the figures that fall as victims. Excellent.
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on 19 December 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.I was transported by the author, not only through her own vivid practical experiences but also through time and to current issues facing many of us on a personal level,in Ireland, Europe and the world .She exposes the fine balance of preserving of nature, ecology and 'progress' whilst trying to keep within financial limitations and personal considerations. Her prose is beautifully written and conjures up magical images of the land and characters that inhabit this world in flux.She also shows a great sense of humour and it makes the book a combined pleasure to read of struggles and of being able to see the positive side of life!I have no hesitation to recommend it to family, friends and anyone who reads this will finish the book ,moved, illuminated and uplifted!
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Selina Guinness's memoir is named after a stuffed crocodile which sits in the hall of Tibradden, her much-loved ancestral home. In times gone by, when the house was full of family members, the crocodile was used as a rather unorthodox temporary postbox, where letters could sit unmolested by others, until the postman called with his key and took the letters away. Many years later, in 2002, Selina Guinness and her partner Colin, both young academics, move into Tibradden, a gently decaying Victorian house situated outside of Dublin, where the city meets the country, and where Selina's Uncle Charles, an ageing bachelor, is living and farming on a small scale. Having spent much of her childhood years at Tibradden, Selina grew up loving the house and the landscape, but taking over the running of the crumbling family home and coping with the livestock on the farm, proves a little more challenging than either Selina or Colin anticipated; and when her beloved uncle becomes ill and sadly dies, Selina has to deal with all of the problems that her uncle felt he could not face. Then developers come knocking on Selina's door keen to buy some of Tibradden's land for a golf course, but although Selina desperately needs the money for restoration work, she is wary of the motives of these developers and has concerns over the land being used for a large housing estate. And then there are the Kirwans, an elderly couple with a disabled son, who live in Tibradden gatehouse and who, unwittingly and very sadly, cause a whole batch of additional problems for the author.

Beautifully written with some lovely descriptive passages, this memoir was both an interesting and satisfying read. Naturally, as the farming aspect of the enterprise caused difficulties for the author, there was a fair amount of information about sheep farming and the EU's Common Agriculture Policy and so forth which, I will admit, did not fully engage my attention - especially as I was more drawn to to human aspect of the author's predicament; that said, there were some touching and very poignant passages where the author shared details of the loving, but sometimes complicated relationship she had with her uncle, and of the very sad and difficult situation she found herself in with the Kirwan family. Selina Guinnness's memoir is a moving and honest account of family love, duty, responsibility and of the fight to save her ancestral home and to preserve the landscape around it.
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Selina Guinness's memoir is named after a stuffed crocodile which sits in the hall of Tibradden, her much-loved ancestral home. In times gone by, when the house was full of family members, the crocodile was used as a rather unorthodox temporary postbox, where letters could sit unmolested by others, until the postman called with his key and took the letters away. Many years later, in 2002, Selina Guinness and her partner Colin, both young academics, move into Tibradden, a gently decaying Victorian house situated outside of Dublin, where the city meets the country, and where Selina's Uncle Charles, an ageing bachelor, is living and farming on a small scale. Having spent much of her childhood years at Tibradden, Selina grew up loving the house and the landscape, but taking over the running of the crumbling family home and coping with the livestock on the farm, proves a little more challenging than either Selina or Colin anticipated; and when her beloved uncle becomes ill and sadly dies, Selina has to deal with all of the problems that her uncle felt he could not face. Then developers come knocking on Selina's door keen to buy some of Tibradden's land for a golf course, but although Selina desperately needs the money for restoration work, she is wary of the motives of these developers and has concerns over the land being used for a large housing estate. And then there are the Kirwans, an elderly couple with a disabled son, who live in Tibradden gatehouse and who, unwittingly and very sadly, cause a whole batch of additional problems for the author.

Beautifully written with some lovely descriptive passages, this memoir was both an interesting and satisfying read. Naturally, as the farming aspect of the enterprise caused difficulties for the author, there was a fair amount of information about sheep farming and the EU's Common Agriculture Policy and so forth which, I will admit, did not fully engage my attention - especially as I was more drawn to to human aspect of the author's predicament; that said, there were some touching and very poignant passages where the author shared details of the loving, but sometimes complicated relationship she had with her uncle, and of the very sad and difficult situation she found herself in with the Kirwan family. Selina Guinnness's memoir is a moving and honest account of family love, duty, responsibility and of the fight to save her ancestral home and to preserve the landscape around it.
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on 3 February 2013
A lot of advice is given to new writers and the one that you hear the most often is "write about what you know." And this is exactly what Selina Guinness, an editor and lecturer in Dun Laoghaire Institute has done. The Crocodile by the Door; The story of a house, a farm and a family tells the story of her move to with her partner to Tibradden, a run-down and dilapidated country house in the South Dublin Mountains owned by her elderly bachelor uncle and all the events that ensued. The beautiful cover has a gentrified feel about it and the sepia tinted photos and letters on the back beckon the reader in to find out more about Selina Guinness's story.
It's 2007. A house with a view of Dublin from the south,built on land traced back for several generations and land purchases for new house development on a rampage. A requisition of land for a nearby golf course is being negotiated and custodianship of the house has been passed to Selina. Swayed to sell by the enormous sums offered and the opportunity to restore the house, she feels a responsibility to the land and its history and a need to protect it. Telling her story from arrival in May 2002 to a house seemingly unchanged from her childhood, through the months and years as she was appointed ownership of the house by trustees on her uncle's death in 2004. Her trials with the farm through the five years bring us back to the prologue. Moving on to July 2011 to update the story and to an epilogue dated "April 2012."

The title rather exotically refers to a crocodile sitting on a marble-topped chest inside the front door, shot by her great grandfather's brother in Persia - sending the head to a taxidermist in London to be turned into a letterbox. She tells of her conventional suburban upbringing, lunching in Tibradden on Sundays, her parents' early separation, unusual enough in 80s Ireland and her mother's move into art dealership. Selina's refusal to board at secondary school led to her move to Tibradden to live with her teacher uncle and English-born grandmother. Living in their own world, her grandmother and uncle carry on their lives as they always have, with cook, maid, The Archers on Radio 4 and Erin packet soup served in bone china for dinner.

Her move to the house again as an adult carries touching descriptions of her uncles obvious need for company and his effort to "spruce himself up", but Selina sees through the front to the sellotaped glasses and food stains on his clothes. She moves into a house with one three pin socket (the rest are the original round ones from wiring done in 1939), no white goods or mains water supply-just a gravity fed system from the stream. A great clear out follows, clothes are sold to The Abbey Theatre and minor renovations are done. County development planners visit and Selina fears for her uncle's financial struggle's as well as the threat from burglars and poachers. With her uncle's declining health and hospitalisation we are made privy to an old man's fears of his niece's future and his own imminent demise.

But this book is not about an old man's death. It is the memoir of a woman who felt a familial hold on a house and its land and who by recounting the experiences of just five years of her life manages to interweave a whole history. It is a touching insight into the life led by the post-war generation with a "make do and mend" approach to life, a record of the experience of dealing with big developers- sure to go down in Ireland's history as a sorry affair, and a tale of a woman drawn back to a place and a need to do what's right by it.
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on 5 May 2013
I just returned from holiday where I had time to lie in the sun and read at leisure. This was just the kind of book to choose under these circumstances. Selina Guinness writes in a way that allows the reader to think you are having a conversation. I'm Irish myself and I love to read about the great houses which abound in this country, very few of them now inhabited by family. My grandmother often told me tales of the families she knew and how they were run. It was, therefore, very satisfying to read in such detail how this great house has managed to stay in the family, despite obvious difficulties. If you are interested in Ireland and want to know more about its houses and it's people, this is the book for you.
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on 28 December 2012
Starts in a light way and seemed inconsequential but moving into the story it became almost as gripping as a novel. I like the clarity of the dating which, set in the financial events of 2008 gave it satisfying context. I read it fast but then found myself reflecting on it. This one will stick in the memory. Give it a chance, get through the first dozen pages and its well worth it.
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on 4 August 2013
Great read, the author takes you on an amazing journey of her life and how she came to inherit this beautiful Irish Farm house. I could not put the book down and read it in two days. Selina Guinness is an astute observer and I relished reading about her journey. A true delight.
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on 22 May 2013
This is really well written, she is a true word smith. Others have described the book so I can't add to that, suffice it to say that whilst this is not the type of book I would normally read or enjoy, this is an interesting book but its main attraction for me was how beautifully it has been written.
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