29 June, 2015

The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, my grandmother and me by Sofia Zinovieff

I do love an English eccentric (or two). Full of naughtiness, madness and frivolity this book is a delightful treat.

Lord Berners was a gifted composer, painter and writer who lived a life of pure fantasy in his country mansion (pre-war) with his much younger companion, Robert Heber-Percy (the Mad Boy) at a time when homosexuality was illegal.

A background of wealth and privilege is the usual spawning ground for English eccentricity. Edith Sitwell, being one herself, even wrote a book called The English Eccentrics where she says that the aristocrat is not afraid of the opinions of the masses. (of course it helps if you never have to bother with seeking paid employment!)

Growing up in an eighteenth century edifice with turrets and Gothic flourishes set in beautiful parkland with twenty house servants not to mention the gardeners and estate workers, Lord Berners moves on to owning a house in Rome near The Forum then another in London in fashionable Belgravia.

He then inherits Faringdon, a large Georgian house in Oxfordshire. Welcoming an array of fascinating and famous house guests, he entertains lavishly. A flock of doves dyed bright pink and a white horse in the drawing room are but a few examples of his wit and humour.

Strangely enough the Mad Boy goes on to have a liason with a 'society girl' who then produces a daughter.

At the age of twenty five Sofia Zinovieff unexpectedly inherits Faringdon from her grandfather, the Mad Boy. She is the author of this intriguing tale which could almost be fiction.

Title: The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, my grandmother and me
Author: Sofia Zinovieff

Recommended by Claire S, Central Library

Claire S enjoys biographies about creative, interesting characters,  reads non-fiction  connected to the Arts, food, women, New Zealand and even reads the ocassional fiction.

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