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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Black Diamonds--A Real Story of Aristocrats Rather Than the Romance of Downton Abbey

Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed EnglandBlack Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed England by Catherine Bailey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As can be seen from the year and a half it took to read this book, it is neither engrossing nor exciting a story. It is, however, a dual tale--the story of the Earls Fitzwilliam family through several generations and the story of the British coal industry and its miners. The two are intrinsically entwined since it was through the back breaking work of miners who started in the pits at the ages of 10-11 that the luxury and jet setting the Fitzwilliams enjoyed was supported.
Reading of the poverty and living conditions of these families juxtaposed with the impossible affluence of the mines owners was heartbreaking. Oh, there were instances of care on the part of the Fitzwilliams that were taken that other mining families did not perform but none the less the goal was profit and not much profit sharing.
Throughout the family's history stood another character, which, in many ways was more imposing than any of the human characters whose stories were told and that was Wentworth House. It stood silently as the years passed, through WW I, through miners' strikes, through WW II and into the period when at last the miners' unions rose, the Labour Party won the election and the mines were nationalized. It began as a shining monument, large and gilded, filled with priceless works of art and furnishings, surrounded by miles of parkland and formal gardens-- one of many Fitzwilliam properties but the one that was most treasured by them--a paean to their glory and dominion over the surrounding countryside of miners' villages and coal pits. It ended as a dark island, closed to all but the recluse who now owns it, surrounded by open pit devastation. There are no more Earls Fitzwilliam, and though the house still stands, there is no more glory.
The sadness that I felt for the lives of the miners and their conditions did not overwhelm me at the demise of the aristocrats who ruled them, yet, at the end, somehow there was an emptiness matched by the emptiness of Wentworth.
There is none of the Downton Abbey romance in this true story.

This was a GoodReads giveaway in exchange for review. View all my reviews

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