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Ashcombe: The Story of a Fifteen-year Lease Paperback – July, 1999
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"Cecil Beaton ... became an arbiter of style and fashion, an international figure in his own right. ... Above all he loved England and the English countryside, and central to that love was his discovery of Ashcombe, the mysterious house in the valley, which he leased for fifteen years. He never got over its loss, and this book celebrates his love for Ashcombe." -- Back cover.
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Top Customer Reviews
Beaton also warns that we cannot look back on that time and understand the attitudes and carefree mindset (i.e. before the second world war) as it seems a very much fluff existence - an endless round of summer picnics, costume parties, walks through the countryside and photographing and painting- creativity all over. It is not clear when anyone actually did any work. Yet it is exhausting, and Beaton comes across as neurotic and at the very least annoying for those who want quiet time to relax.
But the second half of the book deals with WWII. Rationing, unknown in Germany, became a life-altering issue throughout England as early as 1940. The loss of friends and the bombing of London and even Wiltshire add to the sadness and terror and end of an innocent era. By this time his mother has come to live in the house for safety reasons and the gardens become an important source of food. The property was sometimes used for military training and though during the war he was often working in New York or throughout England and the Middle East- photographing- he longed to be at Ashcombe. Near the end of the war, the property was not in the pristine shape it once was, and his landlord's son wanted to move it- Beaton's lease was therefore not renewed. He was heartbroken and could not be there for the move; seeing the house dismantled or empty would have been too sad.
Extremely fast and easy read.