January 29, 2011

Round About Chatsworth

As an embarrassed Anglophile, I thought I might not review this book, but then I changed my mind because I enjoyed it so much. It's a book about Chatsworth, a huge English estate in Devonshire, and it's written by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, who married the 12th
Duke of Devonshire and so became of member of the Cavendish family. Chatsworth was built in the 1500s by Bess Hardwick and William Cavendish who got wealthy serving Henry VIII.

This is a very well-planned book. What distinguishes it are the gorgeous photos on every page, by a photographer named Bridget Flemming who has lived in a village on the Chatsworth estate all her life. The photos are all appropriate to the text, almost always on the same page. Having laid out some books myself, and been irritated by many others, I know how hard this is to do. So for instance if the text tells about an old watermill, or the red deer in the park, or a double-arched bridge, there on the same page is an excellent photo of that very thing.

Neither the photos nor the text romanticize the area, nor gloss over decrepitude, modernization, nearby highways, commercialization of the estate, or tangled zoning struggles. The author's tone is detailed, wry and humorous. Although solicitous of the environment, in true patrician style she is no fan of protecting foxes or rabbits, whose destructive habits she deplores.

As I read it I kept asking myself, why do I care so much about the moors, woods, hunting towers, restored brick farmhouses and a village called Edensor around an old English estate, but the fact is all the time I was reading it and by the end for sure, my feeling was "I just HAVE to go there. ASAP."

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