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The Duchess [Kindle Edition]

Amanda Foreman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (183 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description


Now a major motion picture starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes

Lady Georgiana Spencer was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales, and was nearly as famous in her day. In 1774 Georgiana achieved immediate celebrity by marrying William Cavendish, fifth duke of Devonshire, one of England’s richest and most influential aristocrats. She became the queen of fashionable society and founder of the most important political salon of her time. But Georgiana’s public success concealed an unhappy marriage, a gambling addiction, drinking, drug-taking, and rampant love affairs with the leading politicians of the day. With penetrating insight, Amanda Foreman reveals a fascinating woman whose struggle against her own weaknesses, whose great beauty and flamboyance, and whose determination to play a part in the affairs of the world make her a vibrant, astonishingly contemporary figure.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

Georgiana Spencer was, in a sense, an 18th-century It Girl. She came from one of England's richest and most landed families (the late Princess Diana was a Spencer too) and married into another. She was beautiful, sensitive, and extravagant--drugs, drink, high-profile love affairs, and even gambling counted among her favorite leisure-time activities. Nonetheless, she quickly moved from a world dominated by social parties to one focused on political parties. The duchess was an intimate of ministers and princes, and she canvassed assiduously for the Whig cause, most famously in the Westminster election of 1784. By turns she was caricatured and fawned on by the press, and she provided the inspiration for the character of Lady Teazle in Richard Sheridan's famous play The School for Scandal. But her weaknesses marked the last part of her life. By 1784, for one, Georgiana owed "many, many, many thousands," and her creditors dogged her until her death.

Biographer Amanda Foreman describes astutely the mess that surrounded the personal relationships of the aristocratic subculture (Georgiana and the duke engaged for many years in a ménage à trois with Lady Elizabeth Fraser, who inveigled her way into the duke's bed and the duchess's heart). Foreman is, by her own admission, a little in love with her subject, which can lead to occasional lapses of perspective, but generally it adds zest to a narrative built on, rather than burdened by, scholarship, that is at once accessible and learned. An impressive debut, in every sense. --David Vincent,

From Publishers Weekly

HShe was the most prominent British woman of her day. Whatever she wore became instantly fashionable, and her parties were the ones to attend. Royals, aristocrats and politicians sought her opinion, for she was as influential as she was beautiful. Princess Diana? No, her great-great-great-great-aunt, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806). A bestseller in the U.K. and the winner of the 1999 Whitbread Prize for Best Biography, Foreman's debut is captivating not just because of Georgiana--whose insecurity, demented love life and gambling addiction made her personal life even more dismal than Diana's--but also because Foreman's portrayal of high society in late-18th-century Britain and France is so remarkably vivid. Foreman gives readers the aristocracy fighting for control over Parliament, King George slowly losing his mind, his love-struck son ill-prepared to take the throne, and more bed-hopping than on a TV soap opera. Georgiana, who bore an out-of-wedlock child with politician Charles Grey, knew that her best friend was her husband's mistress, but that was the least of her problems. Prone to drinking, drug-taking and eating disorders, she also racked up gambling debts equal to $6 million in today's dollars. Foreman's combination of exhaustive research and storytelling skill make Georgiana's story at once lurid, sensational and touching. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3349 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (September 8, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001FA0L9Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,579 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
220 of 225 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book You Want to Read Again and Again January 13, 2000
By A Customer
I bought this book because it had such a glowing review in the New Yorker, but frankly I was a little dubious about its obscure subject. However, once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. Think money, sex, adultery, lesbianism, aristocracy, drug addiction, gambling, politics, scandals, betrayals, blackmail, fashion, theater, and the French Revolution, and you have just some of the potent elements in this book. Foreman writes with great clarity and verve. The book reads more like a novel than a work of history. And yet it is full of fascinating insights and historical information. Georgiana seems more like a modern woman with thoroughly modern neuroses than an eighteenth-century character. I couldn't help but root for her all the way along. The evil Bess, on the other hand, is a character straight from the movie Single White Female - a classic evil best friend who cannot completely disguise her intentions. I recommend this book to all readers.
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161 of 165 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read January 10, 2000
By A Customer
Georgianna deserves to find an American audience as proportionately big as its British audience. Georgiana was a smash over there in England, a country fond of behind-the-scenes stories of aristocratic ladies in the past. (And in the present, too: much has been made of the connections between the Duchess of Devonshire and her descendent, Diana, Princess of Wales.) Yet Amanda Foreman's Georgiana is much more than one of those ersatz popular biographies full of pillow talk and emotions that result more from the biographer's imagination than real research. The book is written in an unpretentious, straightforward style that values clarity above everything. You don't have to be a Masterpiece-Theater-watching anglophile to appreciate its glamour, wit, and intrigue, and you don't have to be a professional historian to grasp its many provocative implications about history and the birth of mass political campaigning. Amanda Foreman must thank heaven every day that such a brilliant subject came her way, and she serves it well. Still, it would be hard to write an uninteresting book about the Duchess of Devonshire. She is a wonderfully paradoxical figure whose meaning seductively eludes the reader's grasp: was she a dilettante or a genuine, energetic talent frustrated by the sexism of her time? Was she merely acting out of the privilege of her class (really, she was above class) or was she genuinely driven ? The ladies of Stella Tillyard's Aristocrats come across as pampered pawns who infrequently lucked into a little free will. Foreman's Georgiana, in contrast, proves that at least one late-18th-century Englishwoman was capable of acting upon her will-even if she made more than one life-altering whopper of a bad decision. Read more ›
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130 of 133 people found the following review helpful
That this book was The Whitbread Award Winner, and a tremendous success in The Duchess Of Devonshire's own country, is no surprise. However as an avid reader of History I was pleasantly surprised at the book's popularity here.
This book was published when the Authoress Foreman was 30 years old, and was produced while she was even younger. To me this makes this Biography of Georgiana all the more impressive, as it can, and will stand with historical works by other writers twice her age and more.
I also believe Ms. Foreman's youth allowed her to bring The Duchess to us as her peer in age, which allowed more objectivity, and a candid portrayal that was brutally honest but never derogatory for it's own sake. That this is the first work of Ms. Foreman's is simply amazing.
History has great moments, but even the most interesting periods of time, or the life of one extraordinary life can be numbing to read. The Biographies go on forever in tedious detail that leaves the reader exhausted. Ms. Foreman writes what is necessary, she uses the space she needs, and the result is a remarkable amount of information related, in an efficient manner. Not only do we learn about The Duchess, for additionally Ms. Foreman fills her story with all manner of events surrounding the Duchess and Europe at large, to convey even more information.
The life of The Duchess must be read to be appreciated. This woman filled her relatively short life with more accomplishments, and amassed more influence, that today her life is as enjoyable and impressive to experience as a reader, as it must have been exciting to witness 200 years ago.
The word Renaissance is used to describe an individual of multiple talents at which they excel.
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62 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire June 5, 2000
The only bad thing about this book is that it's inevitably going to end. If you love superbly written and beautifully researched biographies and have ANY interest whatsoever in history, you'll want to add this one to your library. The author, Amanda Foreman, is a former freelance journalist, which probably goes very far in explaining why the story is so incredibly absorbing. It reads like a novel. Typically, I actually knit while I read. With this book, I finally put my knitting aside because it was slowing down my reading! I admit to minoring in history in college, with a focus on British history, but I've learned all kinds of information that I never fully understood before. (The author also has a PhD from Oxford.) The only other biography I've read that comes close to this one was also written by another Amanda ... Amanda Vaill's Everybody was So Young. If you appreciated that one, you'll probably love reading about Amanda Foreman's Georgiana.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book
Published 6 days ago by Kandi
5.0 out of 5 stars Woman who influenced the society of her time.
Written very well :) Thorough, complete story of one of the strangest aristocratic relationship I've ever heard of! Read more
Published 13 days ago by Michelle Y
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great seller! Book was as described and shipped quickly. Thank you.
Published 28 days ago by Mary Elizabth
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved every single page
I loved this book. Every single page. I do agree with some of the other reviews that said they found shortcomings with the description of the affairs between Bess & the Duke as... Read more
Published 1 month ago by jennifer a horvath
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Very detailed account of the Duchess. Well written. One will feel like you really know her after reading this account!!
Published 1 month ago by Jaylene B.
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A wonderful story of a fascinating 18th century woman.
Published 2 months ago by Constance A. Tway
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and very readable
A great tale of an extraordinary woman set firmly in an age of great freedoms and great restrictions. A history that reads like a historical novel.
Published 2 months ago by David Gordon
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good
Highly enjoyable and quite different from the movie, which falsified and omitted quite a large amount of key facts .
Published 2 months ago by Andrew E. Larsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Georgian
Excellent book. Love history. Wanted to read about her after seeing the movie. She was young when she became the Duchess. Was educated to be able to sustain the title. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Donna
3.0 out of 5 stars Georgiana: A chronology of known facts
This book read as a collection of facts, which is fine if that's how the book is presented. However, the book was clearly presented in the introduction with the viewpoint that,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by walrif Kamil
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More About the Author

Amanda Foreman is the author of the award-winning best seller, 'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' (HarperCollins UK; Random House US), and 'A World on Fire: A Epic History of Two Nations Divided' (Allen Lane UK; Random House US). She lives in New York with her husband and five children.

She is the daughter of Carl Foreman, the Oscar-winning screen writer of many film classics including The Bridge on the River Kwai, High Noon, and The Guns of Navarone.

Amanda was born in London, brought up in Los Angeles, and educated in England. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University in New York. She received her doctorate in Eighteenth-Century British History from Oxford University in 1998.

'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' was a number one best seller in England, and best seller for many weeks in the United States. It has been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, Turkish, Korean and Mandarin Chinese. The book was nominated for several awards and won the Whitbread Prize for Best Biography in 1999. It has inspired a television documentary, a radio play starring Dame Judi Dench; and a movie, titled 'The Duchess', starring Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes.

In addition to regularly writing and reviewing for newspapers and magazines, Amanda Foreman has also served on a number of juries including The Orange Prize, the Guardian First Book Prize and the National Book Awards.

'A World on Fire' has been optioned by BBC Worldwide.

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