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A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle Paperback – Bargain Price, November 25, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Edged with relentless wit...["A Charmed Life" is a] nightmarish memoir that gives fiction a run for its money." --"Kirkus Reviews"

"Poignant...lovely." - "Entertainment Weekly" "Edged with relentless wit...["A Charmed Life" is a] nightmarish memoir that gives fiction a run for its money." --"Kirkus Reviews" "Intriguing...highly readable story...extraordinary." --"Tuscon Citizen" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

“You are such lucky children,” Liza Campbell was often told, “it’s a fairytale life you live.”  Liza’s father did, after all, hold the title of Thane of Cawdor, and the family divided their time between Cawdor Castle (as featured in Shakespeare’s Macbeth) and other impressive homes in England and Wales.  Theirs was a family with a legacy that had lasted almost a millennium.  Her father would, in the course of his life and his descent in to madness and addiction, fail to pass that legacy along.  He was a man haunted by demons; he would often drink himself into oblivion, recklessly driving along the narrow roads of northern Scotland and Wales, routinely crashing and coming within an inches of death.  In his moments of “reformation,” he still lived in an alternate reality.  This is the story of her early life, her family, and her father's ultimate failure. 
            This wonderful, heartbreaking, yet ultimately forgiving memoir recalls a childhood played out on an extraordinary and secluded stage.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312384963
  • ASIN: B003P2VBVC
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,428,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. I. Miller on October 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(By Elizabeth Miller) My Alabama book club read the British edition of A Charmed Life in September. We all agreed it was a great choice and a marvelous story. It's a tightly written and poignant anthropological study of a privileged, titled, and terribly dysfunctional British family living in Macbeth's famous Cawdor Castle. A generous dash of dark humor counterbalances the grimness of the tale. Liza's book tries to convey to the reader an understanding of her father, and perhaps provide closure for her and her siblings. But frankly no excuse can be made for his betrayal of the Campbell children and shattering of the family legacy. Our book club ladies felt that Liza touched on a number of universal truths, and we could all relate to growing up in a family unlike the ideal TV families of the 1960's. We recommend A Charmed Life to all who would appreciate a sad, touching, and thoroughly memorable story of an extraordinary family. And where else have you seen the word "crepuscular" used so aptly?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Absolutely riveting story of Liza Campbell's extraordinary 700-year old family's most recent generations, as bizarre and fascinating as the wildest fiction and all apparently true. It revolves around the recent history of the family that actually lived in Macbeth's castle. It has everything: sex, money, castles (stone rather than glass), fast cars, guns and battles, outrageous aristocratic misadventures, the stepmother from hell and the Scottish countryside.

The book starts off like chick-lit, but any guy will soon be hooked too --something about her father totaling five XK-Es following by the destruction of three Ferraris, having sex with over one hundred women, etc. A mother who is up for sainthood, five delightful siblings, young girls branded by their parents before they were kidnapped so they could be identified years later . . . it makes the life of the author of the bestseller "The Glass Castle" seem mundane by comparison.

Liza Campbell is a wonderful storyteller. Without giving away much, it is a story of family relationships and ill-placed trust with the author trying to see the best in what can only be described as a villain for the ages, or at least a man capable of destroying seven centuries of tradition. And that doesn't include Cawdor Castle's own Cruella de Vil.

Campbell names aristocratic (and Eurotrash)names and the book only becomes more engrossing as you go on, so set aside an afternoon or a couple of readings for one of the most fascinating biographies/autobiographies you will ever read.
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The author, a professional writer, gives great insight into a life few can know: growing up in a rich and powerful family that traces its ancestors back 24 generations. Liza Campbell grew up in Wales although the family's main stronghold is Cawdor Castle, a handsome baronial pile just outside of Inverness, Scotland.

Liza tells about a surprisingly down to earth childhood guided by her parents, calm and distant Cath and her volatile and also much absent father Hugh. Her father is the central character in the book, both alive and dead. He wields a strong influence on his five children and their interactions with him and about him form the main story.

Having been to Cawdor, and loving Inverness and that part of Scotland, I was delighted to hear about this book. It did not disappoint in giving insight into the workings of the Campbell family and the well known castle which is their home.

edited to add: I vistied Cawdor castle again two months ago. It's one of the better castle open to the public in Scotland, I think, because it is a family home and yet it has large, extensive collections and gardens to interest anyone ( I liked it better than Blair Atholl, for instance.) It has some fabulous furniture and interiors. I guess the battle for ownership still rages on, so sad.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I stumbled across this book when searching for something else. I was intrigued by the title because I once traveled to Scotland and wanted to visit Cawdor, but it was closed as it was the off season. I did however travel the general area, and I looked forward to reading about her life at Cawdor. I was richly surprised to uncover a wonderful gem of a memoir filled with references to the Scottish landscape I so enjoyed visiting. Ms. Campbell is an excellent writer. Her use and command of the English language was a pleasure to experience. Her story, and that of her siblings, was something out of a fairy tale in many regards, yet it was also a nightmare, easily recognized by others who grew up with an alcoholic parent. I enjoyed the book immensely and recommend it highly. I have tremendous respect for her, cemented by the fact that in the notes at the end of the book, she thanked her mother for her permission to share with readers intimate, yet privately painful experiences of her marriage. I greatly look forward to another book penned by Ms. Campbell.
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Format: Hardcover
but Angelika takes the...er...castle. Having visited Cawdor and its environs decades ago, I could not wait to read this book. It is such a sad, funny, repulsive, infuriating, illuminating story--well told and difficult to put down. The cover picture is just about worth the price of the book itself. I just hope there is a special hell for stepmothers like Angelika and my own. Buy this book!
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