While an impoverished graduate student in London, I was given two luxuries by my most beneficent uncle: a charge card to Fortnum and Mason and an account at the Mayfair bookshop Heywood Hill.
I became instantly addicted to popping in and browsing through the stacks upon stacks of books. And if the ghosts of some of my favorite writers who were past patrons (including Osbert Sitwell and Nancy Mitford who actually worked here) weren't enough to enchant me, the extremely well-read and engaging staff made this no passing affair.
Here are HH managing director Jeffrey Kerr's current recommendations - all of which look like must-reads to me! I urge you all to visit next time you are in London and, in general, to support your local bookstores which are going through tough times.
DAVENPORT-HINES, R Ettie: the Intimate Life and Dauntless Spirit of Lady Desborough (£20)
The extraordinary life of Ettie, Lady Desborough, aristocratic beauty, society hostess, member of the Souls, courtier, heiress, and mother, whose life spanned the reigns of five monarchs from Queen Victoria to George VI. Although from an early age her life seemed shadowed by death (her mother, father and brother all died before she was ten)
FELLOWES, JULIAN Past Imperfect (£17.99)
On his death bed the enormously wealthy Damian Baker asks a former friend to search amongst the offspring of their University clique for his heir. The quest affords the central character the opportunity to look back at the group’s youthful expectations and find out whether they have come to terms with the reality of the lives they now have. Hugely entertaining - Brideshead for the twenty-first century. [Editor's note: Julian wrote the screenplays for Gosford Park and Vanity Fair.]
KRESTER, MICHEL DE The Lost Dog (£16.99)
Tom Loxley loses his dog whilst working on his book on Henry James out in the bush. His search takes him not only through the bush but through his memory, calling back his childhood in India and his early life in Australia. Yet his trip to the past is balanced by the sharp reality of his mother’s failing health and the mystery of Nelly. A beautifully crafted modern novel from Australia.
MLINARIC, DAVID & CECIL, MIRABEL Mlinaric on Decorating (£35)
A lavishly illustrated look at the work of David Mlinaric, one of the foremost interior designers of the last forty years. In addition to having taken over the mantle of adviser to the National Trust from John Fowler, David Mlinaric has worked on some of the most important historic projects in recent years: Waddesdon, Spencer House, the Royal Opera House, and the British Embassies in both Paris and Washington. The book also includes beautiful images of his own houses; Thorpe Hall in Suffolk, being particularly gorgeous with interiors of stunning simplicity and great elegance.
MOSLEY, CHARLOTTE In Tearing Haste: (£25)
Although at times sporadic, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and the travel writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor have exchanged hundreds of letters over the last 50 years. Charlotte Mosley has used her considerable judgement and skill to draw out some of the very finest of these, illustrating his devotion and her friendship. Paddy Leigh Fermor’s poetic travel writing, which immediately draws one to the place and event described, is perfectly balanced by the highly individual mode of expression of his correspondent. Light hearted and fun, a terrific read.
Click here for an interview with Debo herself.
NICOLSON, ADAM Sissinghurst: an Unfinished History (£20)
A fascinating and beautifully written account of Adam Nicolson’s relationship with the place which is home to him, but which for many people is a national treasure, something to be preserved in aspic. This is a book about place, how it becomes a part of you: the history, the trees, the soil. Nicolson weaves the story of his efforts to reconnect Sissinghurst with the surrounding landscape into the history of the place itself.