Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Rare and the Beautiful. The Lives of the Garmans by Cressida Connolly

If you have followed this blog, you might have noticed that I am very fond of biographies. Especially, of people, or families, which stand out due to their personalities, and maybe, eccentricities. This book has it all. The Garmans were nine siblings, and this biography is mainly about four of them; Mary, Kathleen, Douglas and Lorna. They turned their world and surroundings upside down with their wild and bohemian life in the beginning of the 20th century.

They took lovers, and/or married them, created with their pure energy, the inspiration for many an artist. They were part of the Bloomsbury set between the wars, and knew them all; writer Vita Sackville-West who had a love affair with Mary, although she was married to poet Roy Campbell; sculpture Jacob Epstein, lover of Kathleen for many years until they married when his wife died; the poet Laurie Lee, painter Lucian Freud and many more.

They lived their lives as they wanted without thinking about conventions.
”The valued naturalness very highly, they barely disciplined their children, they spoke their minds. The sisters wore their hair straight and long when custom called for stiff permanent waves. They liked things to look effortless. Elaborate picnics appeared as if out of nowhere, and their houses were models of elegant simplicity in which important and valuable drawings and paintings would be propped casually against the walls. They accepted the most extraordinary coincidences as nothing less than their due.
People fell in love with them. They were lovely to be in love with - passionate, generous, beautiful.”
Cressida Connolly lets us meet the family and their quest for a different life in a passionate tale. However, she is balancing very well their story and does not let us be trapped by the sisters and their charms. We can see their success and failures, laugh with them and cry with them. It is a story of a family who inspired artists in various field, and they were very much part of the artistic community during the last century. A really fascinating story, where you realise once again that fact is more interesting and exciting than fiction.


  1. This sounds like a book I'd really love! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Biographies are books I don't seem to read much anymore. When I was younger I seemed to read nothing but them. Funny how our tastes in books circle around. Interesting post. Pam

  3. I love biographies too, after mysteries.

  4. To all of you: I am really into biographies. There is something exciting peeking into other people's life. They seem so much more interesting and exciting than your own! In a way a biography is a kind of mystery as well, Linda. We don't know what will happen and a lot of the times there is a hidden secret somewhere.