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At Home at Highclere by Countess Carnavon

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up here >>

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Elizabeth Joliffe

If you are a fan of Downton, this is certainly a book for you. Enlightening behind the scenes of "upstairs and downstairs” over several generations of the Carnarvon family. Interesting stories of weekend visitors, from Henry James and Sir Malcolm Sargent to a visit from the Prince of Wales in 1895. The detailed descriptions of the preparations for this visit are amusing, leaving nothing to chance. Even enquiring of a previous host if everything had been to the liking of the Prince. Apparently, he paused for thought and then suggested she was missing hooks for his dressing gown! The unfortunate host was mortified, Almina wife of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, had provided dressing gown hooks.

The recipes are basic some with a twist, for example Breakfast Kedgeree with a curry sauce. Most of the puddings/ sweets would fit well into “school dinners of the 1930’s. As befits a shooting estate, game features heavily.

The current staff, from room guides to housekeepers, provide interesting insights into their roles and clearly very loyal to the family, as are the family to them.

Harold Gibbon

This book gave me a good education into the life of one of the UK’s stately homes. My wife reviewed the many cooking recipes. There was no mention of the gardens and reconstruction, which were my main interests.

Stately home life can hardly exist these days but I would say that life on a luxury cruise ship could come close. The gatherings there had a great influence on political and business of the country. Disraeli, Edward VII, Malcolm Sergeant, Prince of Wales were frequent visitors.

Generations of Lord Carnarvon’s including one of Tutankhamun fame entertained them. No home like this could function without its dedicated staff. They were not forgotten with a chapter at the end of each section devoted to them. In its hay day there were twenty gardeners, now there are four.

The photographs were magnificent, as photographers, we especially enjoyed the book.

The government took over stately homes such as Highclere for wartime use. They used Highclere as a children's home and hospital. Many did not survive because the owners did not have the money to repair them. The government did not either so they just fell into disrepair and disappeared. The Carnarvon’s restored Highclere for entertainment purposes.

Anne Blagden

This is a sumptuous coffee table book, spanning the world of entertaining at Highclere from the mid-19th century to present day.

The book focuses on four different historical weekends, giving us an insight into the world of the rich and famous from royalty and politicians to those in the world of music and arts.

Each weekend described, is accompanied by stunning photographs, recipes from the castle kitchens, a tour of a specific room, and a portrait of present day staff from the Head Housekeeper to the Beekeeper.

All of this combined with the Countess of Carnarvon‘s friendly, chatty style makes for a rich compendium of stories and recipes.

Avid viewers of the T.V. series Downton Abbey would be delighted to immerse themselves in this other world, enjoying the photographs of familiar scenes and the traditional English recipes of a great house.

Is it a cookery book? An historical account of the house? A collection of captivating photographs? All of this and more! This beautifully presented book would make a very welcome gift!

Tamara Whitgift

A beautifully presented book if a little large! I loved how the recipes are brought to life across two pages with fabulous photography. Some of the recipes are perfect for the festive season. Speaking of the photography, I enjoyed perusing the old photographs of the Carnavon family and various guests of Highclere. Plus the many staff the estate has had over the years, and how they keep it running on a daily basis.

The book is a nice insight into a world we rarely see, particularly from behind-the-scenes. A stunning addition to the coffee table.

Jennifer Smith

It was a real surprise to receive this huge, glossy book through the post. After watching the Downtown Abbey series on tv it was interesting to find out more about the real house, its history, its occupants and visitors and some of the people that work there now such as Diana the Head Housekeeper and Mike the Bee Keeper.

The book is full of beautiful photos, which bring the whole thing to life. It is punctuated with lots of recipes from sausage rolls to cakes for an afternoon tea and there are even as few cocktail recipes which I will definitely be trying out on friends and family at Christmas.

Whilst I would not have bought the book myself, it makes a wonderful gift.