Prize-winning author Adam Nicolson tells the story he was born to write – the real story of England. It is the gentry that has made England what it was and, to a degree, still is. In this vivid, lively book, history has never been more readable.
We may well be ‘a nation of shopkeepers’, but for generations England was a country dominated by its middling families, rooted on their land, in their locality, with a healthy interest in turning a profit from their property and a deep distrust of the centralised state. The virtues we may all believe to be part of the English culture – honesty , affability, courtesy, liberality – each of these has their source in gentry life cultivated over five hundred years. These folk were the backbone of England.
Adam Nicolson’s riveting new book concentrates on fourteen families with a time-span from 1400 to the present day. From the medieval gung-ho of the Plumpton family to the high-seas adventures of the Lascelles in the 18th-century, to more modern examples, the book provides a chronological picture of the English, seen through these intimate, passionate, powerful stories of family saga. The families have been selected from all over the country and range from the famous to the unknown. Some families are divided by politics , such as the family that took different sides in the Reformation; others destroy their inheritance through reckless gambling or investments . All of them are vivid depictions of the life and code of the gentry, and have left deep archives of family papers which the author has been able to use, often for the very first time.
The Gentry is first and foremost a wonderful sweep of English history. It presents a convincing argument on what has created the distinctive English character but with the sheer readability of an epic novel.
Where does The Gentry rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
It sits in the middle, it was a highly informative and complicated read. However, the narrator has a voice that could lull one to sleep which made concentrating rather tricky. Multigenerational story lines meant keeping track of characters and relating to them hard work
If you could sum up The Gentry in three words, what would they be?
informed, intimate history
Who was your favorite character and why?
The earlier families - as I personally am more drawn to that period of history
What does David Fleeshman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
Well tbh if I had the time I would read the book as preference - but have little time to just sit and read so use audible so I can listen and drive
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
When some of the families finally died out
Any additional comments?
The questions in the review seem to assume this is fiction - its actually well researched fact - though I suspect Nicolson has leaned on the work of other researchers.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This book, the result of the author's meticulous research and excellent writing style gives a linear history of that unique group, the Gentry. The differing perspectives through the centuries with some families continuing in their manors and estates to this day, others having been submerged by historical circumstance has given us a fascinating glimpse into this segment of English society.
The reader's style enhanced my enjoyment of the work.
All in all this was a thoroughly satisfying book to listen to.