'A masterpiece of social history' Daily Mail
There is nothing quite as beautiful as an English country house in summer. And there has never been a summer quite like that Indian summer between the two world wars, a period of gentle decline in which the sun set slowly on the British Empire and the shadows lengthened on the lawns of a thousand stately homes.
Real life in the country house during the 1920s and 1930s was not always so sunny. By turns opulent and ordinary, noble and vicious, its shadows were darker. In The Long Weekend, Adrian Tinniswood uncovers the truth about a world half-forgotten, draped in myth and hidden behind stiff upper lips and film-star smiles.
Drawing on hundreds of memoirs, on unpublished letters and diaries, on the eye-witness testimonies of belted earls and unhappy heiresses and bullying butlers, The Long Weekend gives a voice to the people who inhabited this world and shows how the image of the country house was carefully protected by its occupants above and below stairs, and how the reality was so much more interesting than the dream.
English writer and historian Tinniswood (The Rainborowes) elegantly explores the glamorous interwar age of English rural getaways, revealing the not-so-secret affairs of the inhabitants and the reinterpretation of architectural and interior design (particularly the "Wrenaissance" style of the Edwardian Baroque). In the years between the World Wars, sprawling country houses returned to fashion thanks to burgeoning railroad travel. The English nobility and even royalty, such as the future Edward VIII enjoyed their minipalace getaways, and soon the trend caught on with the nouveau riche in particular Americans such as William Randolph Hearst, with his "English" castle in Wales. Plenty of famous and infamous people frequented these weekend homes, but Tinniswood provides little background to make non-British readers unaware of some of the ironies such as the sight of the revolutionary Gore-Booth sisters in their own Anglo-Irish country house. Instead, Tinniswood's examination complete with gorgeous images centers on architecture and design; he admires quality no matter the style and notes where it's missing, especially where a new spouse muddled a project's coherence. Tinniswood's lovely chronological ode to a past lifestyle brims with tales of the elite's tumultuous weekends and shows how the country house's purpose changed with the times as the old social order came to a close. Photos.