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Black Diamonds Audiobook

Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty

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Publisher's Summary

Wentworth is today a crumbling and forgotten palace in Yorkshire. Yet just 100 years ago it was the ancestral pile of the Fitzwilliams' - an aristocratic clan whose home and life were fuelled by coal mining.

This is the story of their spectacular decline: of inheritance fights; rumours of a changeling and of lunacy; philandering earls; illicit love; war heroism: a tragic connection to the Kennedys'; violent deaths: mining poverty and squalor; and a class war that literally ripped apart the local landscape.

©2008 Catherine Bailey; (P)2008 Oakhill Publishing Ltd

What the Critics Say

"Extraordinary, fascinating, harrowing. A truly compelling read." (Sunday Telegraph)

What Members Say

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  • Philadelphus
    New Quay, Wales
    "A terrific listen"

    If I'd read this book I'd have been fascinated by the content but possibly quite irritated by the author's changes of style from fact to romantic fancy. I gather she makes TV documentaries for a day job so it fits with the current fashion for dressing up actors for fanciful reconstructions, which always makes me instantly distrust the whole production.

    But the content of this book really is fascinating and the reader, Gareth Armstrong, is one of the best. This is a case of the audiobook probably being better than the written version and worth a listen even if you've read the book.

    I thought I was going to dislike the reader at first when he made a mess of "Allegheny" and gave Consuelo Vanderbilt a cut glass English accent (she was American, married into the English aristocracy). But he then gave Lloyd George a pinpoint accurate North West Wales accent instead of the usual Nowhere that Ever Existed southern singsong. (Though Ll G actually spoke English in an RP accent.) He throws in a few more accurately located Welsh voices, does a mean Churchill and messing up "Aneurin Bevan" in the voice of JFK's sister Kathleen was a good joke. I can't say how good his Yorkshire voices are, but they are all distinctive and subtle without being overstated. The same is true of the aristocrats.

    This may make him sound an intrusive reader, but he isn't. He lets the book's merits speak through. The author manages to show that the Fitzwilliams were better employers than most without romanticising them and without hiding anything about the horrors of the mines' lives. The book deals with the lives of several generations, and each could have made a book in its own right. But it all holds together and it all comes through in this humane and intelligent reading.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Petra
    London, United Kingdom
    "interesting social history"

    The narrative was at times just a little disjointed, but overall a hugely enjoyable listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Penny
    Havelock North, New Zealand
    "Such an interesting story - and best of all - TRUE"

    This has been my favourite talking book for some time - I couldn't wait to get back to my listening. It has been criticised for all the side stories, eg. the realities and politics of the coal industry and the loves of Kathleen (Kick) Kennedy, but I loved these 'extras', and found the whole story utterly absorbing. I am left wondering - 'Why haven't I heard of this author before?' - she is such a good historian and biographer.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Christine
    Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom
    "A glimpse of the past, of the rich and the poor."

    Opening in the Winter of 1902, the main focus of the book is an old palatial house, Wentworth, & the Fitzwilliams, the Family who owned it. The wealth needed to fund such a lifestyle came from mining the coal seams the Fitzwilliams owned & the book is made even more interesting by the insights given into the lives of the miners employed by the Family & their interaction with the Fitzwilliams. The relationships within the Family are also covered: unfortunately, these are marred by avarice and jealousy. The story is absolutely fascinating and as hard to 'put down' as any novel could be. It left me with the wish to go and find the house: I did and it was an amazing sight, made even more interesting by what I now knew about it, the Family who owned it and what happened to them.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Deborah
    Stafford, United Kingdom
    "Informative and entertaining"

    I bought this book because of the good reviews. I was not disapointed by the story and i loved the historical facts. My only criticism was some characters could have been more interesting and had more scope for interest.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Linda
    "All That Glitters"

    This was a wonderful audiobook which kept me enthralled on two levels, the political and the personal. I found the entire story of the coal trade fascinating and the political commentary only proves that history does indeed repeat itself. Of the coal mine owners, the Fitzwilliams, their story was equally fascinating, with plenty of intrigue, illicit liaisons and family rifts. The narration was superb and I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who likes their history wrapped up in the lives of real people.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Nicola
    Beverley, United Kingdom
    "Rather Unexpected"

    This was one of those choices I almost gave up on, but during a period of insomnia I'm glad stuck with it. I was expecting a rather Barbara Bradford Taylor dynasty story, initially the lack of detail about the family was disappointing, but this book is so much more. Filled with fascinating facts about northern coal mining, the social effects on miners following WWI, political (and social) intrigue and a mysterious family I became engrossed.
    Gareth Armstrong narrated the whole thing beautifully I shall miss his voice during the early hours of the morning.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • O
    Wilrijk, België
    "The last of a modern dynasty"

    I was convinced to purchase this audio book because of the positive reviews and I was not disappointed. In my opinion, the story occasionally meanders too much, yet it is still well-written and most of all, excellently narrated. Not the best I have downloaded from audible, but still to be recommended.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Cliff
    Frinton on Sea, United Kingdom
    "Beautifully nostalgic"

    I was surprised to listen to a book which was not what I expected - it was better. the narrator added so much to my pleasure. As a commentary on social history it was enthralling

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • melanie
    Saltburn by the Sea, United Kingdom
    "Unusual but good"

    This book isn't what I thought it would be. I was expecting country house, wacky ancestors and problems. These things are there but with lots and lots of details about the mines and the miners who worked for the family (and I mean a lot). My Dad is a miner so I didn't mind listening to it, but I can imagine for a lot of people these parts would be a struggle to listen to. The parts about the family are really interesting and I Googled and Wikipedia'd the house and family after listening to it. I know I would of hated to read this book, but I could zone out when listening to the boring parts. Not sure if I would recommend as its not everyones cup of tea.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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