Monday, February 3, 2014

The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

Catherine Bailey came to Belvoir Castle in England to do research for a book she was considering on the first World War.  There had been a Duke at Rutland since the Battle of Hastings and the family was one of the wealthiest and best well-connected in the country.  She was granted access to the family's papers but uncovered a mystery that the family had kept secret for decades.

John, the ninth Duke of Rutland, had been Duke in the years following World War I.  A secretive man, his final years had been spent obsessively working on the papers of his family.  He spent his final days in a room of family papers, frantically working at the expense of his health.  After his death, the rooms were sealed for sixty years until the author was granted access.

These were the English aristocracy who wrote letters to each other daily, sometimes several times a day.  Bailey was granted access to this huge treasure trove of paper, but she quickly discovered something amiss.  The exact time period she had hoped to research was missing from the paper records.  After further study, she realized that three distinct periods in John's life had been excised from the record.  What had gone on in those periods that the family didn't want revealed?

With this discovery, her book changed focus and she spent her time discovering what had led to the removal of the records for those three time periods.  On the way, she uncovered family secrets, and the kind of maneuvering behind the scenes that was commonplace for the country's wealthiest families.  Everyone in the families were controlled their entire lives by their families and the web of connections between the wealthiest and most influential.

Catherine Bailey has written an interesting, painstakingly researched historical account of the life of a titled family in wartime years.  She has an interest in twentieth century history and is a television producer and director of documentaries on the time period.  As such, she knows exactly where to go to discover the answers hidden in one place in others, resulting in the full story being brought to life.  This book is recommended for history lovers and those readers interested in the lives of the wealthy, as illustrated in Downton Abby.

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