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James Lees-Milne (1908-1997) was a noted expert on the English country house and perhaps the greatest British diarist of the 20th century. Funny, indiscreet, candid, touching, and sharply observed, his journals reveal a fascinating personality and hold up a mirror to historical events large and small. Despite advancing years, James Lees-Milne's descriptions of the people h James Lees-Milne (1908-1997) was a noted expert on the English country house and perhaps the greatest British diarist of the 20th century. Funny, indiscreet, candid, touching, and sharply observed, his journals reveal a fascinating personality and hold up a mirror to historical events large and small. Despite advancing years, James Lees-Milne's descriptions of the people he meets, the houses he visits, and country life on the Duke of Beaufort's Badminton estate are sharper than ever. He continues to enjoy a wide variety of experiences and vividly recaptures a weekend at Chatsworth, a monastic retreat, a journey in a helicopter, an encounter with Mick Jagger, and an intimate lunch with the Prince of Wales. As the grand old man of country house conservation, he becomes a media celebrity, but declines a CBE and refuses to be photographed by Lord Snowdon. In old age, he draws close to his formidable wife Alvilde, whose death in 1994 both shatters and liberates him, but he remains emotionally interested in members of his own sex. As always, he is a penetrating commentator on the times. A tour of the Cotswolds makes him ruefully aware of the yuppie trends of the Thatcher era, while he predicts that the victory of New Labour will herald a descent into American-style vulgarity and yob culture.Witty, waspish, poignant, and self-revealing, James Lees-Milnes last diaries contain as much to delight as the first, and confirm his reputation as one of the 20th century's great English diarists.


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James Lees-Milne (1908-1997) was a noted expert on the English country house and perhaps the greatest British diarist of the 20th century. Funny, indiscreet, candid, touching, and sharply observed, his journals reveal a fascinating personality and hold up a mirror to historical events large and small. Despite advancing years, James Lees-Milne's descriptions of the people h James Lees-Milne (1908-1997) was a noted expert on the English country house and perhaps the greatest British diarist of the 20th century. Funny, indiscreet, candid, touching, and sharply observed, his journals reveal a fascinating personality and hold up a mirror to historical events large and small. Despite advancing years, James Lees-Milne's descriptions of the people he meets, the houses he visits, and country life on the Duke of Beaufort's Badminton estate are sharper than ever. He continues to enjoy a wide variety of experiences and vividly recaptures a weekend at Chatsworth, a monastic retreat, a journey in a helicopter, an encounter with Mick Jagger, and an intimate lunch with the Prince of Wales. As the grand old man of country house conservation, he becomes a media celebrity, but declines a CBE and refuses to be photographed by Lord Snowdon. In old age, he draws close to his formidable wife Alvilde, whose death in 1994 both shatters and liberates him, but he remains emotionally interested in members of his own sex. As always, he is a penetrating commentator on the times. A tour of the Cotswolds makes him ruefully aware of the yuppie trends of the Thatcher era, while he predicts that the victory of New Labour will herald a descent into American-style vulgarity and yob culture.Witty, waspish, poignant, and self-revealing, James Lees-Milnes last diaries contain as much to delight as the first, and confirm his reputation as one of the 20th century's great English diarists.

30 review for Diaries, 1984-1997

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nicola Pierce

    Oh, how I love to read other people's diaries - mine are so boring in comparison! I give this book five stars despite the fact that I was appalled by some of his views (very right wing, racist, loves Mrs Thatcher, hates the Irish etc) and language. This is surely the proof of a brilliant diarist - that you can thoroughly enjoy their voice while hating some of what is being said. I read the book in four sittings and, at times, wondered why I kept going. I'm not sure that I liked him much but - my Oh, how I love to read other people's diaries - mine are so boring in comparison! I give this book five stars despite the fact that I was appalled by some of his views (very right wing, racist, loves Mrs Thatcher, hates the Irish etc) and language. This is surely the proof of a brilliant diarist - that you can thoroughly enjoy their voice while hating some of what is being said. I read the book in four sittings and, at times, wondered why I kept going. I'm not sure that I liked him much but - my goodness - I admired his productivity and his social life. The diaries span the years from 1984 to 1997, only stopping with his death at ninety. Therefore, it is a chronicle of the aging body and ritual of 'that' phone call announcing who else has just died. Sometimes that phone rang twice in one day. You are brought into a world where you have 'luncheon', always have your books reviewed in the most important newspapers, frequently meet royalty and include varies dukes and duchesses as your best friends. Honestly, as a middle-aged Irish woman, with dodgy finances, I couldn't get enough of it and will be going out to get the rest of his diaries.

  2. 4 out of 5

    PAULA

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tess

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ian

  6. 4 out of 5

    Grace

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen-Leigh

    I adore James.

  8. 5 out of 5

    mary armentrout

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Murphy

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bronna Wasserman

  11. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Fox

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lindaraxa

  13. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dr diane Greenwood

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nick Weiss

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jude Thompson

  17. 5 out of 5

    dorothy wilson

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sian Roberts

  19. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  22. 5 out of 5

    Judy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Fermor

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nicola Braden

  25. 4 out of 5

    Norrie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mrs Victoria Clayton

  27. 5 out of 5

    Miss M

  28. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Wright

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jan Haines

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