Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell were the children of possibly the most selfish and mismatched couple in the annals of the British aristocracy. They became in the 1920s, in Cyril Connolly's words, 'a dazzling monument to the English scene... had they not been there a whole area of life would have been missing.'
John Pearson describes the public and private life of this strangest and most flamboyant of literary families.
©1978 John Pearson (P)2013 Audible Ltd
This is a beautifully written book. The subjects' lives and their times are presented in fascinating detail, and Pearson has a masterful command of the language so the characters and the era come to life beautifully.
But by about halfway through, I was finding the Sitwells excruciatingly boring. They might have made important contributions to the arts but, really, they were a tedious and snobbish trio. I did feel sorry for poor Edith, but my sympathy couldn't carry to the end of the book. For anyone who doesn't have at least a basic knowledge of English poetry and poets and the arts in general, it would probably be a waste of time.
The really outstanding thing about this book is the dreadful narration. I can see why Mr Douglas got the job. He has a really nice voice and enunciates very well, so he would be very easy to listen to for 22 hours EXCEPT for the oh-so-frequent mispronunciations - even in English. I started to list them for this review, but there were so many I didn't have time to go to my notebook each time my ears were offended. It's odd, because he obviously has some knowledge of French and Italian and a reasonable accent in both languages, so how does he mispronounce things like Commedia dell'arte, San Gimignano, Ballets Russes - the list goes on. German too - Bayreuth. Even in English - executor (of a will) pronounced executor (as in hangman); antecedents pronounced an-tessa-dents - again, the list goes on.
Mr Douglas has an idiosyncratic way of punctuating sentences - I doubt Mr Pearson wrote in all those commas and full stops. And sometimes he seems to be speaking as though he's keeping time with a metronome at his side.
Doesn't Audible audition people before entrusting them with a book? Doesn't anyone check before it goes on sale? If a book has foreign words, surely the reader should know enough to be able to pronounce them correctly, or to check out any of which s/he is uncertain. For a finely written book to be mangled in the narration like this is a shame.
"A restrained insight into indulgent eccentricity."
The introduction is far too long and far too guarded, apologising to everyone alive and dead before it begins. This sets the tone for the entire book. Fascinating in parts, hinting at the promise of entertaining anecdotes without offering the all important detail and falling short of delivering the goods on occasion . Far too reverent in its approach, teasing the reader with the vaguest details of the families most extreme behaviour . Here lies the dry facts for a gifted and fearless writer to turn into a best seller with film rights. The writer shields the family from any suggestion of impertinence and in so doing so, misses opportunities. A good read none the less!
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