Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Book Review: The Season

The books I like the most are the ones that I'm so engrossed in on public transport, that I nearly miss my stop. While that only happens with fiction with me, it has finally happened with a non fiction book.

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Over the last few weeks, I've been reading 'The Season' by Sophie Campbell. It's a very well written and researched book where Sophie takes part in a truly British tradition, and tries to attend all the Seasonal Events in the British calendar. These include the likes of the Chelsea Flower Show to Wimbledon through to Henley.

This Season, usually takes place between May to August, and is so interesting to read about. There were even a few events that I didn't know about.

The book beautifully sets the scene at each event and it's so interesting to read about how some of these events and traditions have changed over time, in terms of dress codes, the presence of royalty, and just how open the event is to the public. I particularly loved reading the chapter on Royal Ascot. I've never been, but really enjoyed reading about the different kind of people that attend, from those in the Royal Enclosure, to those sitting around, just for a good day.

It was particularly really interesting to read about the class divide in Britain. While many thought that the gap was decreasing, Campbell found that it is a huge as it's always been at these events, with a clear sectioning off of the upper class and the normal people. I had no idea these kinds of divides still existed, but it was definitely really interesting to give it a read.

I'm kind of a history nerd, so I loved reading about the traditions and where they came from, as well as how each Seasonal Event started, with some stories going back hundreds of years. I loved reading about all the traditions that still take place, in honour of their starts, with a favourite section being about a cricket match between Eton and Harrow Boy's Schools. Campbell does a fantastic job switching through eras. While she has interesting first hand viewpoints of what she's seen at the various parties and events, she also delves deep and looks at what went on 50 or even a hundred years ago, at these same events, and more importantly, how the War changed some of the key elements of these events.

There is also a lot to read about in terms of fashion, and how she went about getting her outfits. I quite like how some of the more prestigious events keep their dress codes over time, with Ascot or Henley turning women away if they're not wearing the correct hat or your dress is above the knee.

There are also a few interesting chapters about 'Butterflies' ie debutantes, or young women. She does  a great job of comparing the debs of yesteryear with those of today by looking at both the similarities and differences of expectations, and what the girls have to go through. The ladies of the upper class have always had a closed community and the reference to Vanity Fair was fitting. If you haven't read the book (or seen the movie), I urge you to. It's one of a my favourites and does an great job of showing just how closed off the upper classes were to outsiders (Reese Witherspoon's finest work is that film if you ask me). The chapter looks at the 'coming out' for girls and whether the traditions have changed over time. It pinpoints some key young ladies over the years, such as Georgiana Spencer or Margaret Whigham. These two are definitely worth a quick Google!

I haven't quite finished the book, with 50 or so pages left to go, but this is a book that definitely makes me look forward to my morning commute to work. It's so well written and Sophie does an incredible job of making you think you're really at these events. It's an interesting point of view about, historically, some of the most closed off events, which have only recently been open to the general public.

I definitely recommend picking it up, especially this time of year, when we're at the peak of the season, with Wimbledon and Ascot so closely on our heels. It's an amazing book and one that I'll proudly display on my bookshelf. It's full of great little historical facts, how some of our most common traditions have come into place and how these great events have changed over time, while still trying to maintain their identities.

Sherin xx


LillianZahra said...

I love a good book. This sounds really interesting - definitely going to add it to my list of things I want to read! x

Cee said...

This sounds like such an interesting read! I'm only vaguely familiar with most of the events of the British social season, but I have some family members who attend them all, so it would be nice to read up and get a bit better acquainted with what all the fuss is about :)

Cafe Fashionista said...

Ooh, this sounds massively appealing. Great review, my love! :)

Couture Carrie said...

Fab review, darling!
I am a bit of a history nerd, too :)


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