Anyhow, once I finally started reading this, I quite liked it. Georgiana was a really interesting woman. I mostly think of 17th century women as standing around in giant dresses with enormous powdered wigs, but she was actually a political powerhouse. Georgiana Spencer (great-great-I-forgot-how-many-times-great aunt of Lady Diana Spencer, yes, THAT Diana Spencer) was 17 when she married the Duke of Devonshire, uniting two rich and powerful British families in the late 1700s. Most of what I know about 18th century history is about the American Revolution; this book is about what was happening politically on the other side of the Atlantic around that time. Her marriage to the Duke was troubled, yet she became involved in politics and was incredibly influential with the Whig party. She was also a close confidante of famous politicians like James Fox and the Prince Regent (and all you Jane Austen fans know exactly who that is).
Of course this book talks about Georgiana's difficult marriage and home life, and her complicated relationship with the Duke, and her best friend Elizabeth Foster, who lived with them for years and was also her husband's off and on mistress! Complicated is putting it mildly. However, there was much more politics than I was expecting. I liked it but I did have trouble sometimes keeping all the politicians straight.
And to make matters even worse, Georgiana had a serious gambling problem. Gambling was to the rich as gin was to the poor, the book notes. She racked up seriously jaw-dropping debts, literally millions in today's dollars. Plus she had at least one lover and illegitimate child, and the story there is really heart-breaking. Not really a role model, but a very complicated and interesting woman.
So -- I've now completed eleven of the twelve books for my TBR Pile Challenge! I have three left on my original pile (since I also read my two optional books already). How's everyone else doing with this challenge? Have you finished, or are you close to completing it? Which books have you liked best?
Thank you for reminding me about this book! I watched a PBS special about her a few months ago and went in search of a bio, found this one, and had to return it to the library before I could even start it. But I would like to try again!ReplyDelete
Sometimes I got bogged down in the political bits, but overall, it's very interesting. The movie adaptation with Keira Knightly was pretty good, but it's mostly focused on the domestic part of her life. I'll have to see if I can find the PBS special. Thanks!Delete
I've had this on the TBR stacks since last year - and I've been meaning to read it for ever longer! I'm intrigued it was chosen by a Jane Austen reading group. We've just been discussing what to read in our JASNA chapter.ReplyDelete
We chose it because it's really what was happening politically when Jane was a young woman -- Georgiana lived from 1757 to 1806, and Jane Austen lived from 1775 to 1817. Georgiana was one of the leading social and political figures of her day, so JA would have known all about her. It was interesting to get some more background about the period.Delete
I read this years ago---I think while I was in library school. I enjoyed it a lot; I didn't know anything about her at that time so it was fascinating. And sad.ReplyDelete
I just finished the last 'back-up' book for my TBR challenge, so I'm done! :)
Well done with your TBR challenge!! I only have three left -- I cheated a little and read my back-ups this summer.Delete
I really liked this book, I always forget how interesting biographies can be.
I love this book--I also found Georgiana fascinating and such a contrast to the way fiction typically portrays women of this timeframe. I do think this is one of the best bios I've ever read--partly the subject and partly the author's treatment of her.ReplyDelete
I thought the movie was quite good too.
The gambling truly was horrific--it seems Georgianna made her situation so much harder by getting herself into such debt.
The gambling was shocking!! I never really gambled (I prefer to spend my money on books and traveling), so it was truly horrifying.Delete
I was thinking about watching the movie again. It seemed like there wasn't nearly as much about her politics as it was her personal life.