21 March 2013

Splendour and Squalor

Title: Splendour and Squalor
Author: Marcus Scriven
Year published: 2009
Pages: 413
Time It Took To Read: A week, intermittently

Oh my, what a month I've had. The children have had contagious diseases, one after the other. I've been gallivanting, and managed to get laryngitis and a chest infection. I've got annoyingly behind with uni work, and am writing this instead of an assignment, which is somewhat counterproductive.
I've decided not to include books I read often in this challenge, but in the last few weeks I've re-read most of the Harry Potters, and a collection of Mitford letters. It's Lent, a time I choose not to buy new books TO TORTURE MYSELF in an attempt at self-discipline. It also saves me money.

However,  this book has been sitting on my shelf for almost a year. It is a general commentary on the fall of the British aristocracy, focusing on the biographies of Edward FitzGerald, Duke of Leinster, Angus Montagu, Duke of Manchester and Victor and John Hervey, who were both the Marquess of Bristol. All these men are now dead, in largely tragic circumstances. I had heard vaguely of the Herveys, but otherwise everything in the book was new to me.
It's not the best written book in the world. The writer assumes the reader has an in depth knowledge of the peerage. His prose jumps several generations at a stroke, without properly explaining who is related to whom. As many generations use the same forenames, this can be extremely confusing. The family trees at the beginning of the book are very select, and don't list everyone mentioned. He also alludes to events far in the future, giving the book a chaotic feel.
However, the book itself is exceptionally well researched.The writer has evidently gone to some lengths to get interviews with the right people, and to offer insight into the actions of these reckless men. He sometimes focuses too much on the 'family gene for madness' (especially where the Herveys are concerned), rather than recognising the psychological burden of difficult upbringings and unexpected inheritance. He also seems to regard John Hervey's bisexuality as more distasteful than his multimillion pound heroin and cocaine addictions.
I really enjoyed this book, I just wish it'd been edited a little more tightly.

Book Count: 19/50

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