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The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine--Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary Hardcover – January 15, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Uglow takes such delight in her work that every page shimmers and whirls. On a mission to rescue neglected, radical English artists, such as Thomas Bewick (Nature’s Engraver, 2007), she now richly and inquisitively portrays brainy and independent Sarah Losh (1786–1853). Uglow grew up in Cumbria, Losh’s home territory, and knows well the wildly unconventional church Losh designed and built in the village of Wreay, a house of worship brimming with imagery drawn from Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions, all shaped by Losh’s passion for fossils and science. Losh even helped craft the carved stone and wood vines, lotus flowers, dragon, butterflies, raven, bat, eagle, stork, and her favorite, the pinecone, an “ancient symbol of regeneration, fertility, and inner enlightenment.” What sort of Victorian Englishwoman would construct a pantheistic temple? Bright, willful, and soon motherless, young Losh was supported in her quest for education by her wealthy industrialist father (Uglow’s history of the family fortune is fascinating) and progressive uncle. Losh deflected her suitors to live a liberated life with her beloved sister, whose death precipitated Losh’s phenomenal surge of creativity. Uglow expertly sets Losh’s singular story within a historical context as intricately detailed and vital as Losh’s church as she shares her profound appreciation for this visionary and her “defiant celebration of life and art.” --Donna Seaman

Review

"[Uglow] quickly revealed herself to be one of the most resourceful and innovative writers in the genre . . . as in the best biographies, the question becomes not what the subject will do, but how and why she will do it." —Megan Marshall, The New York Times Book Review

"This mesmerizing account reveals the uniqueness of Losh's achievement while retaining its mystery." —The New Yorker

“[An] entrancing book . . . Always impeccable in her choice of the vivid anecdote and the memorable image with which to conjure life into the northern hillscape that she evidently loves so well, Uglow has produced a quiet masterpiece: a book to savour and treasure.” —Miranda Seymour, The Sunday Times (London)

“In its intimate tone, its lavishly detailed depictions of Losh’s creations, and its seamless interweaving of the local and immediate with the global and the timeless, [The Pinecone] is an exuberant match for the beautiful, ornate and movingly personal nature of Losh’s extraordinary church.” —Rachel Hewitt , The Guardian

“Uglow pieces together an absorbing portrait . . . Like her subject, Uglow triumphs with quiet urgency.” —Laura Battle, Financial Times

“[An] engaging historical study . . . With her precise sense of history’s intellectual and political movements, Uglow is good at explaining [the] artistic background . . . [and] illuminating subjects as diverse as the use of alkalis in industry . . . and Italian politics in the wake of the Napoleonic wars . . . Uglow’s telling of [Losh’s story] is clearly focused, wonderfully stimulating and surprisingly colourful.” —Andrew Lycet, The Telegraph

“[In The Pinecone] Jenny Uglow not only proves the importance of Sarah Losh but shows what biography at its very best can do.” —Frances Wilson, Literary Review

“A riveting story, and Jenny Uglow makes the most of it, exploring the intellectual and social background to Losh’s unusual masterpiece . . . She fully explains the impetus for one of the most startling small masterpieces of nineteenth-century architecture in Britain, as well as bringing to life the admirable Miss Losh of Wreay.” —John Martin Robinson, The Spectator

“Uglow’s Pinecone, like Losh’s, spins ever outwards, but is at its most beautiful in its return to small perfections, a tiny church and a little life that tells, nonetheless, an epic story.” —Ian Kely, The Times (London), Book of the Week

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374232873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374232870
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Here is an architect you have never heard of: Sarah Losh. One of the reasons you haven't heard of Losh is that she has one fine church to represent her oeuvre. One of the reasons is that this little structure was built in 1842, and it was built in an out-of-the-way village, Wreay, outside of Carlisle in northern England. Another reason is simply that she was a woman, so she really wasn't an architect because women were not allowed to be architects. She was, however, an extraordinary woman in many ways, and now she has as full a biography as can ever be written. Jenny Uglow, who has written several outstanding books about personalities of that age and locale, has an appreciation for Losh's life and her remarkable church in _The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine - Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary_ (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The book has good pictures, and concentrates on St. Mary's Church in Wreay, partly out of necessity. Losh didn't leave much documentation of her life. She wrote poetry, but none of it remains, and she kept a journal which others read and treasured and kept passages from, but she burned her journals and other documents. If she ever fell in love, or wrote love letters, we have no evidence. What she did have, and what enables Uglow to tell her story in this fullness, is a bustling family with wealth coming in plentifully from the chemistry of the Industrial Age; a time of political upheaval and Losh's own radicalism; and the little church, which shows an energetic and independent mind.

Losh got much of her education courtesy of her Uncle James, who advocated various liberal policies including education for women.
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Format: Hardcover
On Candlemas Eve in 1836, the Twelve Men of Wreay met to consider Miss Losh's request to make improvements on the road through Wreay where it passes the church and burial ground, to expand the churchyard. Miss Sarah Losh, then aged 50 and unmarried, was the largest landowner and wealthiest resident in her part of Cumbria, near Carlisle and close to the border with Scotland.
Miss Losh's petition was successful, and six years later she constructed a new church of yellow sandstone. While the style of this new church, called St Mary's, anticipated the Romanesque revival, it incorporated symbolism from different pasts: turtles and dragons were gargoyles, an eagle perched on top of the belfry, and the interior included `strange stained glass, bright leaves on black backgrounds, kaleidoscopic mosaics, alabaster cut-outs of fossils.' There are snakes and tortoises, lotus flowers and pomegranates. And everywhere there were pinecones - `an ancient symbol of regeneration, fertility and inner enlightenment' - carved onto the walls, into the roof beams and on the front door-latch.

`To call herself an `architect' would have been unthinkable: that was a man's profession, and she was a woman and an amateur.'

We know what Miss Losh achieved, but not really why she did it. Miss Losh destroyed most of her personal papers, and the house she lived in has long been cleared of its contents.
In this biography, Ms Uglow writes that she first saw St Mary's as a girl, and `years later crossing the road from the green in a haze of Cumbrian rain... I became curious about its creator'. Dante Gabriel Rossetti visited the church in 1869, sometime after Sarah Losh's death, and described it as `full of beauty and imaginative detail, though extremely severe and simple'.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Here is an architect you have never heard of: Sarah Losh. One of the reasons you haven't heard of Losh is that she has one fine church to represent her oeuvre. One of the reasons is that this little structure was built in 1842, and it was built in an out-of-the-way village, Wreay, outside of Carlisle in northern England. Another reason is simply that she was a woman, so she really wasn't an architect because women were not allowed to be architects. She was, however, an extraordinary woman in many ways, and now she has as full a biography as can ever be written. Jenny Uglow, who has written several outstanding books about personalities of that age and locale, has an appreciation for Losh's life and her remarkable church in _The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine - Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary_ (Faber and Faber). The book has good pictures, and concentrates on St. Mary's Church in Wreay, partly out of necessity. Losh didn't leave much documentation of her life. She wrote poetry, but none of it remains, and she kept a journal which others read and treasured and kept passages from, but she burned her journals and other documents. If she ever fell in love, or wrote love letters, we have no evidence. What she did have, and what enables Uglow to tell her story in this fullness, is a bustling family with wealth coming in plentifully from the chemistry of the Industrial Age; a time of political upheaval and Losh's own radicalism; and the little church, which shows an energetic and independent mind.

Losh got much of her education courtesy of her Uncle James, who advocated various liberal policies including education for women.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
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