This bland, meandering roster of names, titles, and great houses, though spruced up by handsome illustrations, fails to live up to the elegance of its subject's designs. Best known for the magnificent country houses he built for distinguished members of the gentry, Edwin ``Ned'' Lutyens was the son of a portrait painter. Discovered and promoted by a wealthy neighbor in Surrey, Lutyens, who had demonstrated an uncanny talent for architecture from an early age, received his first commission as an architect (for a ``gentleman's cottage'') in 1889, when he was 20. He was rarely idle after that: The titled and the well- heeled beat a path to his door. ``There will never be great architecture without great patrons,'' Lutyens is often quoted as saying. He built on an ambitious, even opulent scale for several hectic decades. While he designed everything from cottages to tombs, he is best remembered for his elegant country houses: Temple Dinsley, Berrydowne Court, Deanery Garden. He also renovated a number of England's great houses, including Knole, which his romantic friendship with Lady Victoria Sackville afforded him the luxury of doing. His fortunes declined after WW I: His designs passed out of fashion, and some of his old patrons fell on hard times. He died deeply in debt. Brown seems little concerned with dramatizing Lutyens's life, however, focusing here on the lives of his patrons. Unfortunately, her narrative often seems more like a cozy society page studded with the great names of Edwardian society than a historical narrative. Indeed, her book (she is the author of Vita's Other World: A Gardening Biography of Vita Sackville-West, 1986) seems to treat distinguished names as a carefully cultivated landscape to be described without inquisitiveness or excess of passion. With too much text hindering any coffee table appeal, this will likely find an audience only among Anglophiles and DecArts & Architecture diehards. (16 color, 100 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-670-85871-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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