Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed England

Penguin. Dec. 2014. 544p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780143126843. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780698182950. HIST
OrangeReviewStarIntriguing and thoroughly researched, Bailey's (The Secret Rooms) biography details the often tumultuous past of England's Wentworth House and its dysfunctional occupants. The Fitzwilliams, who made their wealth through coal mining, boast the dramatic makings of an aristocratic family: pregnancy out of wedlock, suspicion of true legitimacy, court cases over inheritances, and even an entanglement with the ill-fated Kennedys. Class tensions are highlighted through several accounts of coal miners, from their daily grind to the failed strike in 1926. What makes Bailey's findings even more impressive is that much of the Fitzwilliams' documents were intentionally destroyed in a fire, raising further interest in what this family was trying to hide. With a captivating narrative and only a few instances of dry retelling, the text reads like an exciting period drama and readers will be racing to get to the end in order to unravel the secrets and eventual collapse of the elusive Fitzwilliams.
VERDICT While this will be an easy sell to Downton Abbey fanatics, this fascinating history is highly recommended to anyone who loves family gossip and mystery.

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