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This is the long awaited account of Miss Mariano's many years as secretary and confidante of the legendary B.B. As writing per se it hardly sparkles, lusterless phrases mixed with willowy airs, circumspect and chatty by turns. But as a repository of household information, a guide to Berenson's work habits, guest lists, and stray comments, and as a broad, episodic mosaic of the cultured doings at I Tatti, the master's Florentine estate, the book brims with value and seems destined to take its place beside Berenson's diaries, letters, and Sketch for a Self-Portrait. Sir Kenneth Clark's introduction attests to Miss Mariano's accuracy and rather exorbitant claims are made for the author's portraits of notable figures, including that of Edith Wharton, which he states can be more helpful ""to future historians of American literature than many doctoral theses."" Where Miss Mariano truly excels is in bringing to light the heretofore shadowy figure of Berenson's wife, a buoyant, devoted, enthusiastic woman, pinpointing her virtues and eccentricities, and tantalizingly suggesting a few domestic contretemps since Berenson seems to have been addicted to playful amours. It is perhaps worthwhile remarking that she wished Miss Mariano to marry Berenson after her death; the marriage did not occur and the subject is left undeveloped. The many travel journeys to various sites of antiquity are interestingly described, the social and cultural mood of the Twenties and Thirties is amply registered, and there are some very compelling moments concerning the rise of Fascism, the political hostility to Berenson, and a remarkably vivid summary of displacement during the terrible summer of 1944.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1966
Publisher: Knopf