Diaries, 1942-1954: v. 1: James Lees-Milne

Diaries, 1942-1954: v. 1: James Lees-Milne

Hardback

By (author) James Lees-Milne, Edited by Michael Bloch

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  • Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd
  • Format: Hardback | 512 pages
  • Dimensions: 161mm x 242mm x 41mm | 879g
  • Publication date: 21 September 2006
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0719566800
  • ISBN 13: 9780719566806
  • Sales rank: 1,026,319

Product description

James Lees-Milne (1908--97) made his name as the country house expert of the National Trust and for being a versatile author. But he is now best known for the remarkable diary he kept for most of his adult life, which has been compared with that of Samuel Pepys and hailed as 'a treasure of contemporary English literature'. The first of three, this volume covers its first dozen years, beginning with his return to work for the National Trust during the Second World War, and ending with his tempestuous marriage to the exotic Alvilde Chaplin. The diary vividly portrays the hectic social life of London during the Blitz, when in the intervals between struggling to save a disintegrating architectural heritage he enjoys a dizzying variety of romantic experiences with both sexes. His descriptions of visits to harassed country-house owners are as perceptive as they are hilarious. With the war's end, the mood changes as he portrays a world of gloom and austerity. He shares the prevailing pessimism, yet during these years arranges the transfer of some of England's loveliest houses to the safe keeping of the National Trust.Finally he escapes from England to live on the Continent with his beautiful paramour, yet remains restless and dissatisfied. The diaries of James Lees-Milne were originally published in twelve volumes between 1975 and 2005. Michael Bloch, James Lees-Milne's literary executor and editor of the last five volumes of the complete work, has produced this skilful compilation from the first five volumes -- including interesting new material omitted from the original publications.

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Author information

Born in 1953, Michael Bloch read law at St John's College, Cambridge, and was called to the bar by the Inner Temple. He worked for Maitre Suzanne Blum, the Parisian lawyer of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and wrote six books about the couple. His other subjects include Hitler's foreign minister Ribbentrop, F. M. Alexander (founder of the Alexander Technique) and the politician Jeremy Thorpe. He met James Lees-Milne in 1979, became his literary executor on his death in 1997, has edited the final five volumes of his diary and is currently writing his biography.

Review quote

'These diaries are one of the treasures of English literature. They make the most strangely addictive reading ... Artless though they may seem, they will outlive the era's paltry novels and lame verses' -- David Sexton 'As part of the filigree scaffolding of social history, these diaries are unsurpassed' -- Brian Masters 'If you want to experience the merry-go-round of upper-middle-class life in the twentieth century, you can do no better than follow Lees-Milne, as sharp-tongued, melancholy, jaundiced and reactionary a commentator as ever lived' -- Susan Hill 'Funny and touching, honest and personal, prejudiced and tolerant, fully of strangely riveting anecdotes' -- John Betjeman 'It is hard to imagine a better reporter from this particular world and generation' -- Candia McWilliam 'A superb chronicler of the human condition' -- Hugh Massingberd 'My favourite diarist of the twentieth century' -- Alan Clark 'Lees-Milne's humour and intelligence shine through, making this account of a tempestuous dozen years an illuminating and enjoyable read' -- Alexander Larman, New Statesman 'Lees-Milne is probably the diarist who comes closest to bring the Samuel Pepys of his age. Spontaneous, personal and intimate, but at the same time knowledgeable, gossipy and urbane, Lees-Milne's diaries effortlessly convey the flavor -- or, rather, the many flavors -- of the many places in which he lived' -- Merle Rubin, The Washington Times 'Here is just the right Christmas gift for the ever so slightly sniffy-cum-snooty set who are tricky to please, but like an occasional burst of malicious gossip' -- Paul James, Torquay Herald Express