ISBN #: 978-0143126843
Page Count: 544
Copyright: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Books
(Taken from back cover)
When the sixth Earl Fitzwilliam died in 1902, he was the richest man in Britain. His fortune came from coal-a lifeline to the thousands who worked in the family's coal mines. The earl also left behind four sons, and the family line seemed assured. But was it?
Set in the aristocratic splendor of the era popularized by Downton Abbey, Black Diamonds tells the story of the Fitzwilliam's spectacular decline: of fights over inheritance, rumors of lunacy. a tragic connection to the Kennedy's, violent deaths, illicit love, and a class war that literally ripped apart the local landscape.
The demise of the Fitzwilliams is chronicled in this riveting account of aristocratic decline and fall, set in the grandest house in England. With the novelistic flair on display in her New York Times bestseller The Secret Rooms, Bailey has written another irresistible narrative history.
Being the huge history nut that I am (I majored in History in college and have always been fascinated particularly with English History) I was, at first, unsure if I would like a novel that seemed to not have all the pieces. You see, the Fitzwilliams destroyed pretty much everything. They were secretive and very protective of their privacy. It made writing this novel that much harder, I'm sure, for Ms. Bailey. But the vast amount of research that she does do is so worth reading. What I loved about this was that the author took the family, and put them in the larger scale of economic and political stresses of the world around them. We begin in the late 1800's and end up in the present, where even now, the owner of Wentworth House is reclusive and private, but not, as you would think, a Fitzwilliam. The downfall of this rich, coal mining family is told beautifully and tragically, stories of grandeur and folly, love and hate, and above all, power and prestige. Among all that, you have class power struggles, two World Wars (of which, men from the family fought on the front and the home was utilized for war purposes) and the fight for aristocracy's prominence and relevance in a time of it's demise.
Beautifully written, we get to travel in time and through time with one of England's grandest families, from their rise to their unfortunate and very tragic downfall. It's hard not to feel sorry for them, trying to keep their place among England's finest, even when everything is against them (aristocrats, that is). While I felt for the Labour cause (because I always want the underdog to succeed, and in this case, it was sorely needed) the loss of this history hurts. But, alas, that is the pain for a history major. And why it is called "history" to begin with. It is something no longer there, but rich and vibrant. England (and Europe as a whole) has had one of the most vibrant histories ever recorded and there is still so much to learn. I was very pleased with this book and the writing. Ms. Bailey has another book, The Secret Rooms, which I would love to discover and devour, much like I've done here.
*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.