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Claire (The Captive Reader)

I read this earlier this year and, strangely enough, didn't really like it. I love Beaton's diaries but here he felt so much more artificial. And maybe part of my problem was that the book was more about the parties and his social circle rather than him or the house. For whatever reason, it didn't work for me. I do agree, however, that the illustrations are fabulous!


I can see where you would be disappointed if you were hoping for something else. It is certainly a very idiosyncratic sort of book, but I liked hearing about the the social aspect of his life. I'd never read anything else by or about him, though, so I really had no expectations coming into the book. I wouldn't mind now learning more about his life and work. The book was really nicely designed--such lovely visuals all throughout the book!


I would enjoy this, I am sure.

I don't know if you have been watching Upstairs Downstairs on PBS, but, a recent episode worked Cecil Beaton into the story line. The cook happened into the room where he was to photograph My Lady and he photographed her. It was a touching scene.


This sounds lovely and I think I would love to read it. After reading Claire's comment I'm quite tempted to look for his dairies as well.

Liz F

Sounds a fascinating book and I will investigate as to whether the county library has a copy squirreled away in the reserve.
The only book I can think of having read recently which might possibly fit the bill was 'Ashenden' by Elizabeth Wilhide but that was the fictional story of a house from its 18th century construction to the present day.
I know that it was mentioned on a few blogs fairly recently and it did get some mixed reviews but I rather liked it.


I love the sound of this book, like you I love reading about this era.


I love books like this, transforming a house and creating beautiful gardens. It is a lot of work though and takes a lot of money. I'd love to do something like that. Maybe when I win the lottery jackpot and become a multi-millionaire! ha!

Simon T

What a lovely review, Danielle! I did end up splurging on this one, because (although I read a library copy) I couldn't bear the idea of not having it on my shelves. It was quite pricey, but oh what a wonderful book!


Oh no, am I missing Upstairs Downstairs? I missed Call the Midwife...must go check out their schedule! I saw the first season, so maybe these shows are a repeat in anticipation for season two? I think I might have a book of Beaton's photos--must check that out. He sounds very interesting--now that I've had a peek at his life I want to learn more. I really enjoyed this--it's beautifully illustrated, too.


I'm also curious about his diaries. I was familiar with his photography, but I didn't think I had any interest to know more about him personally. I had heard from others that this was good and knowing I love reading about this era I had to read it, too. I'm glad I did--now I am curious to know more (of course).


I got a copy through interlibrary loan--you usually have pretty good luck finding books at your library from this period, too, so I hope you can get ahold of a copy. It was published in the mid-40s. I think I have Ashenden on my wishlist--not sure it has been published here yet or not, but now I must go and check. I love reading books like this--I don't even mind if it is fiction or nonfiction--and I am more than willing to give any book a try if it appeals! :)


It's fascinating, isn't it? I'm not sure what it is about the first half of the 20th century, but I never seem to tire of books written during or about it.


He actually (or rather his gardeners) moved the gardens and orchards to a better piece of land on the property--better suited for light and growing and it vastly improved the yield of fruits and veggies, but it sounded like a massive undertaking. I'd love to do something like this, too, but alas--since I don't even play the lottery it's unlikely to happen. Still, it's fun to read about others who have transformed houses and gardens.


I really enjoyed this and actually returned the book a week late (after several reminders that the book was due and I really needed to bring it back...) as I didn't want to part with it. I thought it would be fun to share some of the illustrations--so I at least have a glimpse inside the book still. I will keep an eye out for a copy, too. I don't mind paying a little for a copy, but I think maybe the Doves all bought the more reasonably priced ones out there! ;) It's an investment, though, one you'll appreciate every time you take it off your shelves and open its pages!

Liz F

I have checked with the library and have no luck with this book but they do have copies of his diaries so I have requested the first volume of those.
I don't know a great deal about Cecil Beaton so it will certainly be interesting.


Great post! Find out more about his designs which have been created into fabric and wallpaper at

gina in al

I recommend Lady Diana Cooper's memoirs, The Rainbow Comes and Goes, The Light of Common Day, and Trumpets from the Steep. She was photographed many times by Beaton and they were in some of the same social circles before WW2. Enjoy!


I'm curious too about his diaries. My library has five of his books, including three that appear to be diaries--from the 40s and then the 60s. One is Selected Diaries from 1926-1974, so maybe that would be the best place to start and get a taste. Another book is Cecil Beaton's New York which sounds good, too, so I'll have to check them all out of course! If you ever do come across Ashcombe--snap it up! :)


Thanks. I have a bio of Diana Cooper--checking my library's catalog--we have all three books you mention, so I'll be checking them out as soon as I can! :) She seems like a fascinating woman and maybe this will be the push to finally read the book I bought about her---a very, very long time ago! :)


This sounds really charming and exactly the sort of book that Persephone should be republishing. Quick, someone tell them! I'd love to read it.


This sounds absolutely charming and I will have to look for it. I love books about the importance of a place. Perhaps because I moved a lot as a child, and never felt like any place was "home". Now that's changed, as I've lived in my current home for nearly 16 years!


It would be nice indeed if someone decided to republish it. It's nicely illustrated, too, so it's a pity that used copies are too expensive for me. I could easily see a nice small publisher reissuing this one!


I've lived in the same general area of my city almost my entire life! How's that for permanence! I wouldn't mind moving actually but I don't have the money to even think about it. But I can totally understand having a place you feel at home in. It was a charming read--I think Beaton was quite sad to leave it when the lease wasn't renewed. I think I've lived in my house about the same amount of time as you've lived in yours! :)


You mean you have to play the lottery to win it? Guess I won't be winning anytime soon. I always hope I might find the winning ticket stuck to the bottom of my shoe :)


Tricky that. They do seem to want you to actually buy a ticket! ;)

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