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Noble Ambitions

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A fascinating history of the decline of the English country house, primarily in the post-World War II period. Soaring death duties, coupled with rapid social change, signaled the long overdue downfall (to a certain extent) of the British upper class. As houses were turned over to trusts, opened for tours, and sold to people with money rather than purported "class," the nature of country house changed. While the loss of architectural treasures, artwork, and furniture is tragic, the change in the structure of English society is not. (although the worldwide fascination with royalty shows how slow change really is). #NobleAmbitions #NetGalley
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*4.5 stars*

Rollicking jaunt through historic English homes…

And it was fun! The book centered around the declining fortunes of some of the most historic families in England and their accompanying estates. Grand mansions, sprawling properties – all of it was threatened by many factors (war, mismanagement, incredibly high inheritance taxes, etc.) and their declines were sad to read about. What stopped it from being too morose was the ingenuity of those who refused to give up. From flower power hippie festivals to guided tours, to offering their beautiful homes as backdrops for movies, owners tried anything and everything to hold off losing their heritage.

Those stories of survival (mostly) were shared with great detail, often with humour, and some gossipy, trivia details that made the telling more real. I don’t think I’ve even visited a grand estate, so the trials of the rich (if not famous) is not something I’m usually concerned with. The author, however, not only made me care about the homes and their fates but also admire those who did everything to save them.

An entertaining read!

*I happily reviewed this book
**Thank you to NetGalley
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Beautiful old manor houses, armies of servants, glittering balls, weekend parties - this is how English aristocrats and the nouveau riche once lived. Agricultural depression, death duties, wars, and governments mostly put an end to this extravagant life from the last part of the nineteenth century, however. Adrian Tinniswood studies this lifestyle and its decline in this fascinating book, perfect for lovers of "Downton Abbey".

The book is mainly about the fall of these great country houses, but there are lots of interesting anecdotes and gossip along the way. For example, there is a whole chapter on interior design, and one interior designer wouldn't even look twice at a would-be customer who wasn't an aristocrat! There are lots of stories about famous landed families, such as the Thynnes.

I always enjoy Adrian Tinniswood's books, and this was no exception. 

I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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A non-fiction book mostly about grand country houses in Britain with a few mentions of houses located in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
I love reading fiction books that feature old houses through the years. I was very interested in this book especially how it described country houses and the people who lived in them.
Its sad to think that so many old country homes were destroyed because their owners could not afford to pay their repair bills or be able to afford the cost of servants.
This book covers all aspects of the difficulties of owning and living in a old house from financial difficulties, death duties, shortages of building materials and staff shortages with a sprinkling of juicy gossip about some of the people who lived in the houses or visited them.
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Noble Ambitions by Adrian Tinniswood is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late September.

This book is about manors, estates, and country homes being sold and left behind, due to the cost of upkeep, the need for a house (much less a weekend/vacation house), economic viability, and the overall destruction after WWII. It's mostly stuffy, unless you’re really into mid-20th century interior decorating, each level of monarchy, and regional governments of the UK.
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A well-researched history of the English country manor houses owned by nobility and upper-class members of British society, Noble Ambitions perfectly encapsulates the decline of stately living.  Everyone loves the idea of a well-appointed luxurious life of servants in a grand home full of art and artifacts, but the cost of this lifestyle was tremendous.  As families could no longer afford the opulent status of maintaining a secondary residence, many were abandoned, turned over to the government, repurposed or even destroyed. A story of transition and changing times, the allure of beauty and the constraints of upkeep showcase excess as both an aspiration and a hindrance to progress and equality. I would love to see this book in the gift shop of historical homes. It has a niche audience of Downton Abbey fans or The Pursuit of Love fans, so it could make a great connection to that audience.
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4 stars. Highly enjoyable history for anyone who is a fan of Downton Abbey and wonders what happens to those kinds of estates after WW2.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the advanced copy in exchange for my unbiased opinion. My opinions are my own and not influenced by anyone. Ever.
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Well researched and highly detailed, I knew I wanted to read this book but I had no idea how fascinating I would find it. Very enjoyable and engrossing. The history is fascinating, the gossip was unexpected and fun; Noble Ambitions is one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year. 

My thanks to Perseus Books and NetGalley for the advance reader copy of this book. Opinions shared are influenced by nothing other than my reading experience.
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Formatting in EPUB provided ruined many of the pictures and made the text almost impossible to follow. A shame because the subject matter seemed interesting. I'll be trying for the physical bookonce it is out.
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I thank netgalley and Perseus Books, Basic Books for providing me with a complementary eARC of Noble Ambitions The Fall and Rise of the English Country House After World War II.

Check my review about this book on goodreads and booksta using links below:



The magnanimous English country houses belonging to peers, and nobles run back centuries. With ample staff and servants to maintain these humongous and aesthetic structures, they were a sight to see and a pride to live in and hold and pass on the legacy to the next generation.

In this well-researched and detailed book, Adrian describes the crumbling of such houses due to various reasons that cropped up during the two wars. The two wars and the beginning of modernization, availability of myriad jobs that provided security, the slow downfall of the nobles financially lead to one question which not many would have thought would be important. What happens to the colossal country houses that once housed the elite nobles, owned by their families for centuries?
These colossal houses were given in the service of the war efforts while the owners lived in the same wings of the houses separately while the other parts were used for intended purposes. Due to financial issues of maintaining these structures, sometimes they were given on rent. Irrespective of the owner being well of or not at the time of the war, these houses were neglected and used without any concern, There were cases of jeeps going down the staircases, dry rots, leaky roofs and the list goes on. Death tax was another huge burden that the future peers had to face. Rising costs, inability to maintain and restore the  damage caused, these houses were up for sale, but due to lack of modern facilities, it was another hurdle to sell them away.

Adrian Tinniswood has brilliantly written the fall and the rise of these structures which hold a significant importance in the life of it's owners as well as from historical perspective.
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I didn't realize how interesting English country houses were until I started reading this book, but I was very pleasantly surprised and totally engrossed.  I especially loved the chapter about Royal houses.  If you watch Downton Abbey or read much pre-and post-war British historical fiction, you'll appreciate the struggles these families went through to keep their ancestral homes despite changing politics and outrageous death duties.
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I initially wanted to read this book since I’m a fan of English country houses and wanted to learn more about the houses I’ve visited in my historical fiction hobby. I was in for a big surprise as this book not only revealed the burden of maintaining and running an English country home post-war but also introduced me to the gossip that I never expected to experience.
Loved the author’s writing style and depth of research and I’m looking forward to checking out his other works!
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A really interesting look at country homes that are now falling apart .The owners most have inherited the homes from their families  can not afford to keep these homes up.Many donatethehomes to the country to avoid upkeep and estate taxes.This was a fun informative read I will  be recommending.#netgalley #nobleambitions.
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'houses rise and fall, crumble, are extented,
are moved, destroyed, restored, ...'

(T.S. Eliot)

Richly illustrated and extensively documented book about English country estates, from small rural cottages of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) to Basildon Park and Kingston Lacy, and widely known stately homes such as Chatsworth ( "Pemberley") and Blenheim (home to the Dukes of Marlborough).

By the outbreak of WWII, most country houses had been tottering for years under the weight of rising taxes. Between the two world wars, most of these ancestral seats (ca. 420 grand estates) were knocked down and most of the armies of servants were gone by 1939.
This book discusses this change, from years when heirs didn't return left from Flanders Fields to take up the family seat, or due to the fact that these arcadian paradises were no longer desirable; at times the family had to sell its furniture, books, silver and most of its grounds to pay for dead taxes, at times adding up to half a billion pounds in today's value.

Soon after WWI - public schools stepped in and saved many of these homes and most large houses would function as a school, university, refugee camp, maternity home, or hospital, or turned into a country club/spa, where members could use the house and its grounds for tennis, swimming, and entertainment. Since some of these homes were in certain distance, they were also often used for 'secret services' stuff, where neglect lurked -century old paintings were used as dartboards, and ornaments for shooting practise. Some of these houses were so badly misused and neglected, they had to be taken down, or the fungus would do the job soon after....

The author sees these houses as living 'elements' in the social fabric of the nation, and the disaster of having these homes knocked down, or given public status and handing them over to the National Trust, is compared with the dissolution of the monasteries.

Ample examples are given on various stately homes , their noble lineage, dead taxation, Historic Building Counsels (HBCs), and maintenance of these centuries- old colossus.

The mode of life for which these notable houses stood, is long gone, but we must be aware that these estates, nowadays open to the public, or turned into a spa, a flat conversion, or a museum, were once built for one reason only – to function as a family HOME, and each estate has its own family tragedy to tell.

A truly magnificent work, - found it very rewarding and interesting, but can imagine that this is not for every reader, this books mostly covers the social downfall of estates, maintenance, funding, and how taxation forced some current generations to take drastic measures.
Some knowledge of noble families and Peerage is useful, many of the houses covered in the book can be viewed on the National Trust's website.

I am a member of the National Trust myself and have visited most of the houses mentioned in the book.

I would like to thank Netgalley and the author for providing me with an uncorrected reading proof.
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The inevitable clash between a penniless British aristocracy, its depleted estates & decaying values with the tidal wave of social changes that hit postwar England is at the center of this delightful journey through the difficult  transformation of a nation and its stunning rebirth from the ashes of a long and painful conflict. Teeming with delicious anecdotes & unforgettable portraits, this book is a glorious tapestry of British social life and customs during the second part of the 20th century. A trip to be enjoyed without any moderation!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Perseus for this wonderful ARC
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I have so many books on the topic of the country house.  This one is really exciting and extremely informative.  A must read!
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Noble Ambitions: The Fall and Rise of the English Country House After World War II by Adrian Tinniswood is a great nonfictional account of the life, times, and societal shifts of not only the stately " English country homes", but also of English society in general.

I really enjoyed being able to have the objective to stand and look back at the place in history at this specific time where there was a monumental tipping point of societal shift in society within Great Britain s/p WWII. It was interesting to see how looking at estates and homes and their transitions, we can also look at how the country's people, its priorities, and standards also changed. It is a window into a long-lasting transition.

The author clearly has done the research and has presented a well-thought out book depicting all of these changes, the reasoning, and the far-outstretching outcomes. Enjoyable read.

4/5 stars

Thank you NG and Basic Books for this arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon and B&N accounts upon publication.
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