PositiveEvening StandardThe central section of Lownie’s book is concerned with the shady activities of the Windsors during the war...Most damning is the period they spent in Spain and Portugal in 1940 after the fall of France...Still worrying about their tax burden and diminished status if they returned to Britain, they headed to neutral Portugal to consider their options...A huge amount of intrigue accompanied them along the way, with Lownie’s descriptions of the antics of various intelligence agents outdoing anything you might read in spy fiction (one British agent was reportedly told to shoot them if they looked like falling into enemy hands)...Again the Windsors made terrible choices, ending their journey with a stay in the palatial home of a Portuguese banker who also happened to be a German asset...This part of the Windsor saga has been covered in detail before, but Lownie suggests a new interpretation of the incriminating German files on the couple held in the National Archives...Did the Duke knowingly collude with the Nazis?...Every previous biographer has given him the benefit of the doubt, suggesting that while he became a pawn in their game, there is no direct evidence that he worked with them...Lownie sticks his neck out here...\'The argument of this book is that there is plenty of evidence … that the Windsors were not foolish and naïve, but actively engaged with the German intrigues\'...Lownie is dutiful in compiling his evidence on this matter and his argument is convincing...But it’s a niche debate...The court of public opinion (along with The Crown) decided on the Duke’s guilt long ago.
RaveEvening Standard (UK)This explosive trial lies at the heart of Catherine Ostler’s new biography of Chudleigh, but we do not arrive at this pivotal moment until two thirds of the way through the book. The build-up is over 250 pages, but if you thrill to the minutiae of 18th-century aristocratic life then you’re in for a treat. Ostler’s CV includes stints as editor of both ES magazine and Tatler, so there’s not a peerage or princely title for which she is not prepared to go the full Debrett’s. Her footnotes are a joy in themselves ... And to Ostler’s obvious delight, Chudleigh’s life is like the longest and most jaw-dropping society story you’ve ever read ... Ostler paints a glittering picture of London in the reign of George II ... She also provides a close-up of what she calls \'the psychodrama of the Hanoverian succession\', with the bitter rivalry between the \'foul-mouthed and sexually rapacious\' old king and his cultivated son ... It’s all terrifically entertaining: if you liked Bridgerton, you’ll love this ... As Duchess of Kingston, Elizabeth’s spending only increased. Ostler is brilliant on the details of her decadence ... The story romps along with great style and gusto, and her research is impeccable - although some scholars might balk at her decision to seek a modern diagnosis for Elizabeth’s often extreme behaviour.
RaveThe Evening Standard (UK)Hugo Vickers’s 1985 biography of the society photographer Cecil Beaton is a landmark in life writing. On publication it became an instant bestseller, admired as much for its unflinching account of Beaton’s complex sex life as for its assessment of his artistic achievements. Recently reissued, its revelations may now seem somewhat tame, but it remains a vivid record of the life and work of one of the brightest Bright Young Things ... Vickers made a firm decision to keep a diary of the process, especially of his meetings with key figures in the Beaton story, with details of \'what I thought of them, what they said about each other\'. It is his edited entries from his 51 journals of this period that now form the basis for this illuminating and brilliantly scurrilous companion to his original book ... The rivalry between aged aristocratic beauties provides several comic moments ... Scholars of what is now known as queer history will find much to interest them in this book ... This sensible approach allows the reader to understand the homophobia that prevailed so widely in Britain and America into the 1980s and beyond ... to paint a subject in all their colours is exactly what a biographer should do, and in this regard Beaton could not have picked a better person for the job.
RaveThe Evening Standard (UK)Vickers has extensively reworked the book with the addition of new archive material. As the tale of a doomed American adventure into the British aristocracy, this revised edition couldn’t be better timed ... Vickers tells Gladys’s tale with brio and wit, but is nevertheless respectful of a life which could easily be presented as farce.
RaveThe Evening Standard (UK)Swimming in the Dark has all the ingredients of the best coming-of-age gay love stories, but with its 1980s Eastern Bloc setting providing enough edginess to make it feel entirely original. Ludwik and Janusz’s arguments about opposing political systems are as relevant today as they were back then ... Jedrowski’s writing is elegant and compelling, and the revelations when they come are heartbreaking. I wallowed in all this book’s melancholy beauty, and will now keep it on my shelves alongside novels by Alan Hollinghurst, Edmund White and other classics in the gay canon.
PositiveThe Evening Standard (UK)... a whopper at nearly 600 pages, is a brave attempt to do something different ... sounds risky but we’re in safe hands ... This book will not be everybody’s cup of tea. The writing is baroque, much of it in the first person, as Hendrickson chases down the architect and his hauntings, many of them involving fire and grisly deaths. But the contradictory Wright who emerges, both hateful and human, is probably the truest portrait of the man we have yet.