Sunday, February 17, 2008

Venetia Murray/AN ELEGANT MADNESS


(Subtitled: High Society in Regency England)

Murray's non-fiction accounts of how the wealthy lived during the Regency period is as engrossing as any popular YA gossip novel while also providing facts and details that make for much more unique fodder. If this book were a TV show on the CW, it would probably sound something like this:

Ohmygosh, did you hear that Lord Byron refused to eat any of the venison and whatnot at that huge party because he's on a diet??

Yeah, but then my friend saw him eat like five whole steaks at that ritzy club afterward.

Ha, that's nothing. I hear the prince eats eight, like on a regular basis.

Can you believe he totally puked in the middle of a quadrille at his own party? Gross.

Um, who cares? Everyone else was drunk too, and I bet there was puke everywhere by the end of the night.

Yeah, probably that whole Turkish tent motif that's taking over the royal gardens is smelling pretty rank by now. Is this the fifth time he's redecorated his palace now or what?

Sixth, I think. They had to tear down everything the last decorator put up so that they could put in those fake streams and everything.

Remember last year when everyone went to check out the new decorations and people got completely trampled?

Ick, my bff had to borrow some maid's apron because her clothes had gotten torn off her body during the mad rush to see the Oriental room. Okay?? Torn off her body! And she had about five thousand bruises everywhere.

I enjoyed this book because it gives a picture of what it might have been like to be rich and indulgent during a time period I previously thought was quite pious and tame. It touches on subjects such as diet (apparently the rich were in the practice of consuming mass quantities of meat), dress (styles changed about every five minutes), the benefits and drawbacks of being a mistress (a role that was mostly acceptable), clubs, country houses, parties, and more.

Reviewers seem to differ on whether Murray's research is accurate, but the sketches of historical figures and situations are both entertaining and helpful for understanding the attitude of the upper classes of the Regency period.

3 comments:

moonrat said...

hahahaha. thanks for the dialog.

how long is the book? if it's pretty short i might check it out.

moonrat said...

because i'm very shallow and have a short attention span and like short books. yes, just putting that out there.

Cheryl said...

It's not super short. But it's easy to just skip to the chapters that are on subjects you want to read. I did skip a few pages here and there.