First line: One morning at the beginning of 2019, when I was in my London flat, the telephone rang.
Lady Anne Glenconner, lady in waiting to Princess Margaret, led a
spectacular life. She lived through the Second World War, carried the
train of Queen Elizabeth at her coronation and married to an eccentric
aristocrat. In her memoir she takes us behind the scenes of important
events in the British monarchy and her life. She has many ups and downs
but stays strong through them all.
My Thoughts: After watching The Crown I have become fascinated by Princess Margaret. I knew very little about her but came to love her wild side and the way she stirred up the monarchy. When I saw Lady Glenconner’s book on Netgalley I immediately had to request it.
The writing is very simple. It is almost like
having a conversation with the woman herself. It flows so easily and is
a lot of fun to read. You can feel her emotions as you read along. I
loved hearing her memories about life with the royal princesses. I was
shocked as she discussed her marriage. Her husband sounds like a very
difficult man to be around but that she stuck it out shows her devotion
and will to commit to her promises.
I loved looking for pictures
as I was reading. And I found the pictures at the end delightful. It
was nice to put faces to the names. Mustique looks like paradise. I have
never visited the Caribbean but this definitely makes me want to take a
The one thing I was missing was more insights into the
lives of the Queen and Margaret. They appear and play important parts in
her story but I expected more from reading the blurb.
FYI: If you love The Crown then this is a good follow up read.
First line: This is a book about an extraordinary woman called
Almina Carnarvon, the family into which she married, the Castle that
became her home, the people who worked there, and the transformation of
the Castle when it became a hospital for wounded soldiers during the
First World War.
Summary: Written by the current Countess of Carnarvon we are taken into the past to meet the woman that helped inspired the hit television series Downton Abbey. Almina was the daughter of Alfred de Rothschild. Her dowry was used to help support the struggling estate. Almina opened the house to be used as a hospital during World War I and her husband was part of the team who discovered the tomb of King Tut. Using information from letters and diaries of the occupants of Highclere Castle, we get the true story of this great house.
My Thoughts: I have been a fan of the series Downton Abbey
from the start. I watched each season religiously. I even got my mother
hooked on it. I knew that much of the inspiration for the story was
drawn from real life events. I have been meaning to pick up this book
for years and with the upcoming movie I figured it was the right time.
It is easy to see that author had access to many primary sources and a wealth of information. She fleshes out the woman who saved the family from ruin and brought them into the 20th century. I loved hearing about her life before and after her marriage. She did so much for the house but my favorite part by far was the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. From a hobby in the desert and a final chance to find something worth the money they find one of the greatest discoveries of all time.
There is a follow up book called Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey. It is next on my list.
FYI: The Downton Abbey movie is released in theaters on September 20, 2019. (Several of our staff plan to see it this weekend. Hope to see some of you there too!)
American Duchess by Karen Harper
First line: Everyone was calling it the wedding of the century.
Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American heiress to the railroad empire, is
marrying the future Duke of Marlborough. However, she is in love with
someone else and is being forced into the marriage by her strong willed
mother, Alva Smith Vanderbilt. The marriage is an unhappy one but
Consuelo hopes to use her influence as the Duchess of Marlborough to
help the lower classes living around Blenheim Palace.
My Thoughts: I have been a reader of Karen Harper for many years. I really enjoy her historical fiction even though she seems to elaborate her narratives a bit. Her most recent novel was a fast read about one of the American heiresses whose money helped sustain the British aristocracy. Having recently read, A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler, I was familiar with the Vanderbilt family at the turn of the nineteenth century.
was a force to be dealt with but it sounds like her daughter learned a
lot from her mother. I loved hearing about Consuelo’s life and the way
she tried to improve her circumstances and those of the poor. I cannot
imagine living her life though. She was forced into a marriage, had
unimaginable wealth and was very unhappy for many years. Harper does a
great job of breathing life into her characters. I loved “meeting”
Winston Churchill. As with most historical novels, I googled many of the
locations and people to see what they really looked like. This was a
fun romp through the Gilded Age and into the time of the world wars.
FYI: This is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey!