Great White Snark: "She changed the hours and set the fashions."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"She changed the hours and set the fashions."

It's okay, RDJ. This is about how I feel about books right now too.

Life has been hectic lately, but good. This is probably the busiest time of the year for us students (at least for me!) what with finals and research papers and due dates all looming ominously on the horizon. But really, about three more weeks and we're DONE with another semester. ROCK ON!

Right now, I am so sick of reading. I always maintain that being an English major is like being force-fed. Eating in itself is really enjoyable, when you're forced to do it it's uncomfortable and sickening. Reading becomes like that. But I've never really been put off enough by it to give it up altogether, which leads me to believe that I chose the right degree. Even though I'm killing myself working, at least it's work that I do, somewhere deep down, enjoy.

In other news, OUR HOUSE IS FINISHED!!!! After FOUR MONTHS of living out of Michael's bathroom and various boxes, setting up an impromptu kitchen in the living room, coin laundry and eating out for EVERY EFFING MEAL, our house is FINALLY finished! We're in the process of unpacking and rearranging all of our stuff, so once that's done I will DEFINITELY be posting pics. To be fair, it really does look gorgeous. It's my Mom's dream kitchen now. She maintains that she can't sell the house because she'll never have a kitchen this nice ever again. And she's probably right. Home-owner's insurance is a bitch, but it's worth it sometimes.
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^^ How I looked first time I saw the new kitchen/my bathroom...
...and this is how I felt using my OWN SHOWER. However. Big shoutout to Michael for letting me invade and use his bathroom and not complaining ONCE. My bro is a BOSS.

I also really wanted to write this book review, because I just read this book and it was INCREDIBLE.

Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman

Fans of film, costume-dramas, and Keira Knightley might remember when a film of the same title came out a couple years ago. Well, this is the book that inspired the movie. And all of it is TRUE.

Those of you who know me know that I pretty much avoid nonfiction like the plague. However, variety is the spice of life, and if there are two things I almost never mind reading about it's the British monarchy and 18th-19th century history. Lady Georgiana Spencer (as in, ancestor to Princess Diana) made an extremely fortuitous match when she married the Duke of Devonshire, thereby becoming the Duchess. This book chronicles her time as Duchess and uses a wealth of historical evidence (letters, newspapers, etc.) to validate the events. We're taken through Georgiana's time as leader of the most fashionable clique in London, to fashion maven (often hailed as the British Marie Antoinette. And on that note...), to her friendship with Marie Antoinette up until her execution, and most interestingly, her marriage.

Unable to produce a son, the Duke became very frustrated with the Duchess. He had multiple mistresses, a common occurrence for nobility. But the cruelty with which he treats his wife is the stuff of reality TV. Then, as if that's not Jersey Shore enough for you, he shacks up with his wife's bff. He STEALS her best friend, and impregnates her, siring illegitimate children. The best friend (Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Foster) eventually moves in with the pair, and the three live together in a menage a trois, both women sharing the Duke. It is MESSED. UP.

And then, get this. The Duke has had all these illicit liasons with various women. Well, Georgiana has ONE affair, gets pregnant, and the Duke LOSES IT. He banishes her, Bess, her mother, and sister into exile for TWO YEARS while the child is born, and he can't decide whether he wants to take her back or not. After fathering I think three illegit kids himself, he punishes his wife (and his children with her) by banishing her from England. IT'S INSANE. He finally relents and lets her come home, but mostly because he misses Bess, not Georgiana.

Also, despite her enormous income, she fell deeply (roughly $6 million by today's standards) into debt due to gambling. It's a really fascinating and horrible view into her decline into bankruptcy.

Through it all, Georgiana makes incredible strides for a woman living in the 1700's. She becomes more popular in the public than her husband. She makes daring fashion statements, and according to one piece of press, "Whatever the Duchess wears tonight, the rest of the town will be wearing tomorrow." Furthermore, and most importantly in my opinion, she carved a place out for herself in the uproarious British politics of the time. She campaigned with her favored political leaders (unheard of for women at the time), camped out with the British troops during times of war, and hosted meetings for the Whig Party at Devonshire House, making her an invaluable assett to the Whig party. It was said that "the Duke is the only man in England NOT in love with his wife." The politicians loved her, enemies feared her influence, and she was well-loved by everyone who met her, despite the enormous amount of personal tragedy she endured.

Overall, this book was AMAZING. It's like, 500 pages and I finished it in about 3 days. I could NOT put it down. It's nonfiction that reads like fiction, and I'd recommend it to just about everyone. It's extremely fascinating, especially when you consider today's political climate, and the fact that "the good ol' days" were far from the high-collared, moral era we often think them to be. As said in Georgiana's obituary, "She changed the hours and set the fashions...She had an uncommon gracefulness in her air rather than her figure; and appeared always to act entirely from the impression of the moment."

Georgiana depicted as the goddess Diana.

Apparently, the artist did this painting three times and claimed at the finished product that he simply couldn't capture the Duchess's likeness on canvas. This portrait caused an obsession with Georgiana among the people; women rushed to their milliners to have them copy the hat. I personally love her sardonic smirk, raised eyebrow, and the way the hat sits at a rakish angle. What a badass.

You can look at 100+ stills from the movie here (I LOVE this blog...take a look around if you have the time!). SO PRETTY!

That's all. Whew!

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