Saturday, May 29, 2010
This was a slow-moving book, quite unlike the film of the same name that skimmed the top of the life of Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire. Either way, I love her story. While the film focused on the embarrassment of having to live with her husband and his mistress, the book gave a blow by blow account of EVERY thing that happened in her life, largely detailing her political adventures. I am not one for politics, I find it dry and boring, but I soldiered on through this book, because I love the idea that a young woman in the 1780s became so involved in government and had such an influence.
It became apparent during the book that many people of the time were having affairs, not just the Duke of Devonshire. Also, it was made even clearer how much the Duchess was addicted to gambling, at one point being some $3,000,000 in debt (in today's terms)! She was definitely a leader of fashion, initiating many new ideas that were adopted wholeheartedly by the public.
Something the book revealed, that the film did not, was that in her forties the Duchess had some sort of infection in her eye which blew the side of her face out of proportion and caused her much pain and sickness. As a result, the infection left her blind in one eye and her face somewhat distorted. Considered beautiful and radiant through all of her public life, she saw this disfigurement as a punishment from God for her gambling.
I am fascinated by this period of history, and by this woman in particular. The book is an historical record, not a novel, which makes it quite tedious in parts. However, there were enough dramas, and points of interest to keep me going and it did give me a greater appreciation of all the effort required in political campaigns.
If you are considering reading the book, I would recommend seeing the film first, because Keira Knightley's portrayal of the Duchess is endearing, and helps to picture the events of the time more easily when reading the book.