The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power, and Intrigue in an English Stately Home

Ballantine. Jun. 2016. 512p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780553392074. $32; ebk. ISBN 9780553392081. BIOG
Journalist and debut author Livingstone examines the lives of five memorable women, from Anna Maria Talbot in the 17th century to Nancy Astor in the 20th, and the mansion that connects them. As the current "mistress of Cliveden," the author's passion for the subject comes through in her extensive research, providing a thorough look at the drama involving these figures. The book not only delves into their varying roles in English society but uses their stories to craft the estate's history as well. However, Livingstone's commitment to encapsulating the goings-on of the period can confuse the narrative, in places taking attention away from the women's compelling struggles and triumphs in order to describe Cliveden's features or introduce concurrent events happening at the time. Whereas books such as John Martin Robinson's Requisitioned: The British Country House in the Second World War offer overviews of houses and their relevance to historical occasions, this work uniquely approaches the background of a single residence and the tremendous women who occupied its rooms.
VERDICT Lovers of modern English history and the scandals that infiltrated upper-crust society will find much to enjoy in this work.
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