2012: 37. A Circle of Sisters

"I first came across the MacDonald sisters when reading a biography of Rudyard Kipling."

A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Lousia Baldwin, Judith Flanders 

This book was written by Judith Flanders, who wrote Inside the Victorian Home, one of my favorite books of 2007.  That book told the story of what it was like to live in a house (and, by extension, be a housewife - i.e. be a woman) in Victorian times.  This is a group biography of four sisters who ended up being connected to some of the most interesting people of their times.  The four MacDonald sisters were born into a very middle class family - their father was a Methodist (i.e. not Church of England) minister, and they grew up in a series of dumpy rectories.  And despite that, they ended being married two of the most prominent artists of the day (that would be Georgiana marrying Augustus Burne-Jones, and Agnes marrying Edward Pointer), and being the mother of two of the most famous men of their times (that would be Lousia - future Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, and Alice - Rudyard Kipling).  That is no doubt extraordinary, and it's a good hook for a book.

And this is a good book - but I can't say that it really gets to the heart of why these sisters ended up in the center of history. If anything, I was left thinking, well, there were less people back then and it was easier for people to get famous.  Which is unfair - obviously Kipling was an extraordinary person - but my point is, Flanders doesn't really get to the heart of why these sisters ended up where they did.  

Luckily - we don't care, because the book is so interesting on its own as the history of the life of a family.  Indeed the famous people who drift in and out - the William Morrises, etc., are of secondary interest (at least to me) to a book that helps you understand what life was like for people like that back then.  And all the interpersonal squabbles and foibles are just the icing on the cake.  Honestly, it's like the famous family members got her the book deal, and gave us the opportunity to read about what life was like for four very interesting women.

Categories:  Non-Fiction, Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017