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The Music Room

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A bittersweet description of an ancient family house in an enchanted setting, and of growing up with a damaged brother. William Fiennes spent his childhood in a moated castle, the perfect environment for a child with a brimming imagination. It is a house alive with history, beauty, and mystery, but the young boy growing up in it is equally in awe of his brother Richard. Ele A bittersweet description of an ancient family house in an enchanted setting, and of growing up with a damaged brother. William Fiennes spent his childhood in a moated castle, the perfect environment for a child with a brimming imagination. It is a house alive with history, beauty, and mystery, but the young boy growing up in it is equally in awe of his brother Richard. Eleven years older and a magnetic presence, Richard suffers from severe epilepsy. His illness influences the rhythms of the family and the house’s internal life, and his story inspires a journey, interwoven with a loving recollection, toward an understanding of the mind. This is a song of home, of an adored brother and the miracle of consciousness. The chill of dark historical places coexists with the warmth and chatter of the family kitchen; the surrounding landscapes are distinguished by ancient trees, secret haunts, the moat’s depths and temptations. Bursting with tender detail, The Music Room is a sensuous tribute to place, memory, and the permanence of love. .


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A bittersweet description of an ancient family house in an enchanted setting, and of growing up with a damaged brother. William Fiennes spent his childhood in a moated castle, the perfect environment for a child with a brimming imagination. It is a house alive with history, beauty, and mystery, but the young boy growing up in it is equally in awe of his brother Richard. Ele A bittersweet description of an ancient family house in an enchanted setting, and of growing up with a damaged brother. William Fiennes spent his childhood in a moated castle, the perfect environment for a child with a brimming imagination. It is a house alive with history, beauty, and mystery, but the young boy growing up in it is equally in awe of his brother Richard. Eleven years older and a magnetic presence, Richard suffers from severe epilepsy. His illness influences the rhythms of the family and the house’s internal life, and his story inspires a journey, interwoven with a loving recollection, toward an understanding of the mind. This is a song of home, of an adored brother and the miracle of consciousness. The chill of dark historical places coexists with the warmth and chatter of the family kitchen; the surrounding landscapes are distinguished by ancient trees, secret haunts, the moat’s depths and temptations. Bursting with tender detail, The Music Room is a sensuous tribute to place, memory, and the permanence of love. .

30 review for The Music Room

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paula Dembeck

    This is an unusual memoir with three distinct threads which are intermittently woven throughout the narrative. The first is a description and a remembrance of the home where the author grew up. The second is a haunting story of a boy’s love for his brother who had a severe form of epilepsy. And finally there is a history of our understanding of that disease. William Fiennes has an interesting heritage. He is the youngest son of Lord and Lady Saye and Sele, whose family name is Fiennes. Nathaniel This is an unusual memoir with three distinct threads which are intermittently woven throughout the narrative. The first is a description and a remembrance of the home where the author grew up. The second is a haunting story of a boy’s love for his brother who had a severe form of epilepsy. And finally there is a history of our understanding of that disease. William Fiennes has an interesting heritage. He is the youngest son of Lord and Lady Saye and Sele, whose family name is Fiennes. Nathaniel Fiennes, William’s father, is the the 21st Baron Saye and Sale. William is also the second cousin of explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the third cousin of actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes. William grew up with his older brother Richard and a set of twins (another brother Thomas died at a young age) in Broughton, a huge castle which dates back to the 1500s. The castle, located near Banbury Oxfordshire, was passed down through the family over the years and despite many different incarnations, some of it spent in grandeur and others in devastation, it has survived and become a living monument to the past. Most of the castle and its surrounding gardens, the huge moat, the chapel, barracks, working dairy and other buildings are open to the public, although there are a few private spaces for the family. The castle is available to be rented out for films, plays, operas, fairs, tours and events of every kind, and fees from these ventures help fund the upkeep of the huge estate. So William has had an interesting and very different life growing up in this large place surrounded by turrets, stone staircases, shelves of leather bound books, ancient china, tapestries, swords, Spanish armour and hundreds of huge paintings. As a little boy he loved exploring the nooks and crannies of the buildings and rifling through all the historical paraphernalia. But unlike other young boys, he also grew up living in a place where the public was welcomed and always present. William lovingly describes the wonder of a child living in a home exposed to all kinds of activity. Actors and singers were often on the front lawn reciting lines, practicing sword fights or singing arias. Film crews were putting up sets with cables, camera trolleys, and hydraulic platforms, talking to one another through walkie-talkies. William remembers the time he sold Ian McKellan a postcard from the gift shop in the stables and the time he saw Jane Seymour in the Ladies Garden bend to kiss a rose. He sat in awe as he saw Oliver Cromwell’s warts as Rice Krispies, painted brown and glued on an actor’s face and nose. All this brought William the allure of make believe and the delight of gadgets and hardware. The work of caring for and maintaining all the artifacts and the castle itself was a major enterprise. William describes his mother painting the fading butterflies and flowers on wallpaper in the King’s Bedroom, using WD-40 to condition suits of amour and visored helmets, and rubbing beeswax polish unto the oak shoulders of blunderbusses and muskets. His Dad roamed the estate at all times, haunting film sets like a home’s guardian spirit, vigilant for theft, carelessness, and damage to the property. Both his Mum and Dad spent hours working in their offices organizing schedules, ensuring there were proper guides for tours and producing information pamphlets. One of William’s favorite rooms was the Music Room where his mother practiced the viola, endlessly repeating scales. She liked this time she had to herself, a private time away from all the activity. William loved the music, but even more he loved all the gadgets such as the tuning fork and particularly the metronome. He often gravitated to this room as he wandered the vast halls of the estate . Throughout this memoir, William speaks fondly of his brother Richard who was 11 years older. As a young child, Richard had suffered an ear infection and subsequently had a high fever and his first experience with seizures. Over the years these seizures became worse despite the use of anticonvulsant medication. Attacks came without warning and by the age of three, Richard experienced tonic-clonic seizures. Gradually as the number, length and severity of the seizures increased, the damage to his brain became severe and he began attending an institution, coming home on holidays and vacations. Often his home visits were difficult, with angry outbursts, violent behavior and sudden mood changes. The anti-epileptic drugs left Richard sluggish, listless and with labored speech, taxing his family even further. Over the years as his condition deteriorated and the brain damage increased, Richard attacked his own family, challenged his parents, used poor language and was generally disruptive. However, despite his lack of self-control, his erratic behavior and his frightening violence, his family surrounded him with love and patience. William came to realize that Richard’s mood swings, his violence and his bloody mindedness were not intentional. They were not who Richard was, but were a result of the scarring on his frontal lobes from his epilepsy. And so, as a family they managed. Richard died quite suddenly and unexpectedly when he stopped breathing during a severe seizure one night when he was forty-one years old. His death left his family bereft. The third thread in this narrative details the various scientific discoveries about seizures. It begins with the discovery of speech and motor control in the brain and continues through to the discovery of neurons with their axons and dendrites, the transmission of electrical impulses through these pathways and the creation of the electroencephalogram. The portrait of William and Richard’s parents is one of utter and almost unbelievable patience. They are loving, stoical and quite simply heroic. Despite their son’s behavior which perplexed and frightened them, they rarely allowed their pain, bewilderment or frustration to show through, caring for their son until his death. Only once does William see his Dad falter. He finds him out by the house one afternoon, his arm stretched out, his palm pressed flat against a buttress, and his head dropped. He was very still. William asks his father what he is doing. His father says he is asking the house for some of its strength. This is a moving, poignant and powerful story of an unusual childhood and life and the love between two brothers. Beautifully written.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Isabel Losada

    When you read stories of people's childhood in the first person it's difficult not to feel echoes of your own. I think that's one of the things that gives this book such a magical quality. William writes beautifully about his enchanted childhood growing up at Broughton Castle where his ancestors have lived since 1447. William had an elder brother, Rich, who suffered from epilepsy and brain damage which made him emotionally volatile - both warm and generous and then threatening and difficult. One When you read stories of people's childhood in the first person it's difficult not to feel echoes of your own. I think that's one of the things that gives this book such a magical quality. William writes beautifully about his enchanted childhood growing up at Broughton Castle where his ancestors have lived since 1447. William had an elder brother, Rich, who suffered from epilepsy and brain damage which made him emotionally volatile - both warm and generous and then threatening and difficult. One of the wonders of this book is his demonstration of how his family loved Rich. At one point William writes, 'I couldn't think of his character as a manifestation of disease. That would have implied the existence of an ideal healthy Richard my brother was an imperfection of, a dream-Richard this actual person couldn't measure up against. But there wasn't any other Richard.' This sentence struck me as I thought, at first, that this wasn't true and that this book was an expression of longing not for the brother he had - but for the brother that he could have had. Of all the kindness without all the difficulty and the threat of violence. But as the book progressed I saw that this was not so. As children we take things as they are - we don't know any other reality than the one we have and so we are accepting of it. And, if we are lucky, we know the miracle even then. So as the book progressed I realised that I had been wrong. This really was an offering to the brother that he had known -with all the problems - an offering of love to that man. And I admired William all the more for that. In reality he had a double loss - a loss of the brother he could have had and a loss of the brother that he did have. But he was also greatly blessed and he knew that too. I remember clearly when I was 16 years old, coming across the words of Wordsworth (written as an old man) 'Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young was very heaven.' And they showed me what I had. I wrote out in a journal, 'Bliss is it in this dawn to be alive and to be young is very heaven.' William's blessing was that he also saw this. The presence of the dead ancestors whispered it to him - and he heard them. A Paenan of love to his brother and his parents. Sad and beautiful all at once. 5*s.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    Thi is not a “misery memoir”; with the current fashion for these, you can imagine someone with an epileptic, brain-damaged brother prone to fits of violence writing an “Oh, woe is me” account of how hard life was for his family. But instead, what overwhelmingly comes across here is the patient and generous spirit of his parents, calmly accepting the threats and abuse that they know Richard is powerless to control, taking pleasure in his moments of calm and happiness, doing their best to provide Thi is not a “misery memoir”; with the current fashion for these, you can imagine someone with an epileptic, brain-damaged brother prone to fits of violence writing an “Oh, woe is me” account of how hard life was for his family. But instead, what overwhelmingly comes across here is the patient and generous spirit of his parents, calmly accepting the threats and abuse that they know Richard is powerless to control, taking pleasure in his moments of calm and happiness, doing their best to provide an environment where he can thrive and join in family activities. William does not feel fear of his brother, even when as a boy of eleven or so, he witnesses Richard threatening his parents with an iron bar. He is sure that his beloved brother will never hurt him. But only gradually does he come to understand that Richard's attacks are not wilful – they are the disease, not the person. At the same time, “I coudn't think of Richard's personality as a set of symptoms; I couldn't think of his character as a manifestation of disease. That would have implied the existence of an ideal healthy Richard my brother was an imperfection of, a dream-Richard this actual person couldn't measure up against.” The other subject of this memoir is William's childhood home, a medieval castle in Oxfordshire with battlements and a moat. He's already shown in The Snow Geese how evocatively he can describe his environment and the natural world, and here the tone is lyrical. A lonely child, because his siblings were much older than he, he spent his days wandering the castle and its grounds while the staff cleaned and dusted, his mother polished suits of armour with WD-40 or played the viola, the gardner mowed the lawns, occasionally skidding into the moat, and his father planted trees for future generations. Local theatre groups performed plays on the lawn, groups of visitors toured the house, film companies spent days filming. All this made for a strange childhood, but William took it all completely for granted, never having known anything else. Sent to boarding school, he was pleased because it meant he got to spend time with other boys his own age and visit their small, warm houses. Again, no misery memoir of ill-treatment here. You could argue that the secret, rather frightening haunted rooms of the castle mirror the unknown compartments of the brain, but I don't think that's really the point here. Rather like William Blacker's Along the Enchanted Way, it's an elegy to an outdated mode of life. It's so magical I couldn't help being reminded of the castle in I Capture the Castle. The one thing that didn't quite work was the interludes describing the history of research into the working of the brain, and epilepsy in particular. I understood why they were there, and they did help the reader to understand Richard's behaviour a little better. But they never quite gelled with the story. It's the kind of thing that Oliver Sacks does better.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tim Newell

    A fine description of family love within demanding circumstances. Beautifully written and I could hardly put it down

  5. 5 out of 5

    Debs

    A touching, beautifully written memoir that I couldn't put down. Historical references to the evolution of epilepsy research interspersed with the author's own experience of growing up with an older brother marred by this incurable condition. So gentle, so tender is his phraseology, I was mesmerised. A touching, beautifully written memoir that I couldn't put down. Historical references to the evolution of epilepsy research interspersed with the author's own experience of growing up with an older brother marred by this incurable condition. So gentle, so tender is his phraseology, I was mesmerised.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David James

    Fiennes, William. The Music Room William Fiennes’ account of his childhood in a moated castle is more than a memoir but rather a tribute to the enduring quality of a rural idyll and a celebration of the life of his epileptic brother Richard, who died at the age of 41. So refined and detailed is the account of bird life and aquatic life in the estate of Broughton Castle, the 700 year-old house where he grew up, that the reader has an impulse to draw a map of the place - its many rooms, some untouc Fiennes, William. The Music Room William Fiennes’ account of his childhood in a moated castle is more than a memoir but rather a tribute to the enduring quality of a rural idyll and a celebration of the life of his epileptic brother Richard, who died at the age of 41. So refined and detailed is the account of bird life and aquatic life in the estate of Broughton Castle, the 700 year-old house where he grew up, that the reader has an impulse to draw a map of the place - its many rooms, some untouched for years, the extensive grounds comprising moat, streams and rivers teeming with pike, perch, roach and tench, and constantly watched over by a solitary heron and from a height by swarms of croaking rooks. And striding through this rustic paradise we find his elder brother Richard, pipe in hand with his Leeds United T-shirt and his wildly unpredictable behaviour. Richard is the fulcrum of our attention and our fears, a lovable demon who could not have been invented. Fiennes’ writing has an exquisite lingering quality, as if he is reluctant to move on before he has extracted the last detail from a scene. Thus he describes going to wake his brother for lunch: ‘I carried the task within me like an executive power. I climbed the narrow stone stairs to the door decorated with Paninero stickers of Leeds United players and a plaque on which the words ‘Richard’s Room’ were printed beside a Leeds United crest. The handle was blue-green and moulded in the shape of a heron’s head and bill, and when you pressed down on the bill to open the door the heron seemed to nod in agreement that you should proceed inside.’ He would go exploring while his brother was at the epilepsy centre: ‘His room had high windows, a chest of drawers between them with a reproduction Leeds United trophy on top, a metal ring hanging from the wall, threaded with ties: wool, silk, polyester, spotted, striped, paisley, Leeds blue and gold, clip-on bows for church at Easter and Christmas, a many-stranded thickness sprouting like a horse’s tail from the ironstone.’ The author’s love of detail at times can become overwhelming, especially when he gives biographies of seventeenth and eighteenth century brain specialists in epilepsy. For those interested Fiennes gives a full bibliography, apart from his own account of sundry electrotherapists’ brain operations. He knows about epilepsy; his brother about Leeds Utd.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

    This is a moving book. It is beautiful not because the author grew up in a castle and writes about life in it. It is beautiful because it is a memorial to family love --- to the particular tenderness and endless patience of parents who, for 41 years, carry the heavy burden of a "special" son and must witness, with heartbreak no doubt, his grieving and suffering. It is also a memorial to the real personhood of that "special" son and to his relative victories and sad defeats. What the author write This is a moving book. It is beautiful not because the author grew up in a castle and writes about life in it. It is beautiful because it is a memorial to family love --- to the particular tenderness and endless patience of parents who, for 41 years, carry the heavy burden of a "special" son and must witness, with heartbreak no doubt, his grieving and suffering. It is also a memorial to the real personhood of that "special" son and to his relative victories and sad defeats. What the author writes is so true, so filled with a kind of painful love and loving pity. As I said to my wife after finishing some passage of this book: "You will love these people." (I am privileged to have seen Broughton Castle. My wife and children and I were taking a walk over from the village of Shutford when, by pure happenstance, we stumbled upon the castle in its park. Believe me, I will never forget my first view of it with its flag flying above the gatehouse in the quiet.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    I've just finished this book and what can I say - it's absolutely brilliant!! The story of William Fiennes life, growing up in a old castle interwoven with both his brothers epilepsy and associated brain disorder plus the various escapes of a young boy living in a rather normal caring family in a rural setting. It's very well written and describes clearly the emotional aspects of a family dealing with a child who has semi-special needs, plus fitting in nicely between the story there are historical I've just finished this book and what can I say - it's absolutely brilliant!! The story of William Fiennes life, growing up in a old castle interwoven with both his brothers epilepsy and associated brain disorder plus the various escapes of a young boy living in a rather normal caring family in a rural setting. It's very well written and describes clearly the emotional aspects of a family dealing with a child who has semi-special needs, plus fitting in nicely between the story there are historical notes of how epilepsy was diagnosed/understood and treated through time. My only complaint (if it can be said of such), was that the ending was quite quick - his brother just seemed to die, with no preamble or much afterwards. I wasn't sure what I expected but just a bit more about how it affected him and what his life had been like in Brazil, but these are quite small complaints and the book overall is very god and I'd highly recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jem Wilton

    Wonderful book...living nearby in Banbury I can appreciate his descriptions of Broughton...he does it in a beautifully poetic way. I have been in the 'castle' - he sums it up to a tee. I loved his short paragraph on the couple 'cavorting' in the copse - fantastically detatched observation. His descriptions of his brother's epilepsy are lovingly and accurately recorded..you can feel the violence waiting to emerge. If ever I moved away from the area I would use this book to transport me back to on Wonderful book...living nearby in Banbury I can appreciate his descriptions of Broughton...he does it in a beautifully poetic way. I have been in the 'castle' - he sums it up to a tee. I loved his short paragraph on the couple 'cavorting' in the copse - fantastically detatched observation. His descriptions of his brother's epilepsy are lovingly and accurately recorded..you can feel the violence waiting to emerge. If ever I moved away from the area I would use this book to transport me back to one of the most georgeous places I know instantly. One thing...his brother's Leeds United stickers were made by Pannini - not Pannera(?)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linnea

    As a collection of descriptive pictures, it is full of many lovingly crafted phrases and images; as a memoir, it was so episodic it left me wishing for a much clearer picture of this family. It became harder for me to concentrate on the detailed descriptions, however lovely, when I had so many unanswered questions.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Roz Morris

    Strange childhood, beautiful writing, utterly unforgettable character in Fiennes's mentally handicapped brother. He's stand-out and scary, a tender monster who no one can quite cope with. The book seems a little inconclusive and lacks a narrative drive, but Fiennes's brother haunts long after the pages are closed. Strange childhood, beautiful writing, utterly unforgettable character in Fiennes's mentally handicapped brother. He's stand-out and scary, a tender monster who no one can quite cope with. The book seems a little inconclusive and lacks a narrative drive, but Fiennes's brother haunts long after the pages are closed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christine Thomas

    Distinctive, smart and subtle. Read full review here: Distinctive, smart and subtle. Read full review here:

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kate Wilton

    Beautifully written book, a must read, especially if you have ever been lucky enough to visit the castle, so beautifully described.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Lee

    beautifully written and was so real felt like i was there with him throughout his childhood

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    what got me into volunteering at Broughton :)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A touching book of family and place, of childhood acceptance and family adaptation. A trip to Broughton Castle was my birthday treat this year and it was a wonderful visit. A quite amazing house where you can truely feel time and history. It was interesting to get an 'insiders' view of it as a family home. Even Fiennes found some outlying areas of the house too atmospheric 'The pictures [of his ancestors] frightened me when I was alone. ....The portraits were a kind of haunting; they made me thin A touching book of family and place, of childhood acceptance and family adaptation. A trip to Broughton Castle was my birthday treat this year and it was a wonderful visit. A quite amazing house where you can truely feel time and history. It was interesting to get an 'insiders' view of it as a family home. Even Fiennes found some outlying areas of the house too atmospheric 'The pictures [of his ancestors] frightened me when I was alone. ....The portraits were a kind of haunting; they made me think of other people living in these rooms, centuries before, breathing the same stone and timber air, herons poised on the moatside, rooks and jackdaws milling round the flag.' I enjoyed the format of the book. A childhood memoir of the house, of family life and of his older brother's epilepsy and resultant brain damage - so very sad. This is interspersed with the history of scientific understanding of epilepsy which was interesting. The Latin motto in the Oak Room 'there is no pleasure in the memory of the past' - suitable motto for the restoration of monarchy when you had sided with the parliamentarians. But J prefer the source of the corrupted one liner, from Virgil's Aeneid 'One day even to remember this will give pleasure'.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Robyn Lisle

    A unique memoir in many ways. William grew up in a castle, so one aspect is about the experience of growing up in with people visiting your home or using it for films or festivals, and exploring the moat. Another aspect is that of his older brother Richard, who developed epilepsy at a young age, and detailing the hardships associated with that, but also the many joys he brought to the family’s life as well. Finally the book details the progress in research, understanding and treatments for epile A unique memoir in many ways. William grew up in a castle, so one aspect is about the experience of growing up in with people visiting your home or using it for films or festivals, and exploring the moat. Another aspect is that of his older brother Richard, who developed epilepsy at a young age, and detailing the hardships associated with that, but also the many joys he brought to the family’s life as well. Finally the book details the progress in research, understanding and treatments for epilepsy over the past few centuries - as a neuroscience student this was particularly interesting. The memoir reads almost as a stream of consciousness, bouncing back and forth between the three components. Some people haven’t gotten on with the interjection of scientific history but I quite enjoyed it. It is well written and paints a lovely picture of growing up in a beautiful place, and an insight to a unique childhood.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hilary Tesh

    What a delight of a book. It's a memoir of the author's childhood, growing up at Broughton Castle, his memories so vibrant and vivid that he slips from the past tense into the present tense as he records them, as though he's there, experiencing the events again. It's also a record of his eldest brother's life and an attempt to understand more about the severe epilepsy that had caused brain damage and made his behaviour unpredictable. Finally it's a tribute to his home, it's atmosphere and surrou What a delight of a book. It's a memoir of the author's childhood, growing up at Broughton Castle, his memories so vibrant and vivid that he slips from the past tense into the present tense as he records them, as though he's there, experiencing the events again. It's also a record of his eldest brother's life and an attempt to understand more about the severe epilepsy that had caused brain damage and made his behaviour unpredictable. Finally it's a tribute to his home, it's atmosphere and surroundings described so vividly that they leap from the page. I especially enjoyed the book because Broughton Castle is only about 12 miles from here - I've passed it countless times on my way to Banbury yet never, in 30 years of living here, have I turned off the road to visit, something I am now determined to remedy.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Ducie

    An interesting idea; writing a book of memoirs, based on the experience of growing up with a brother and his epilepsy. There were some glimpses of familiar sights from childhood, such as the woman stopping her bike by standing on one pedal. But there was no structure to the book and in some places, it seemed more like a stream of consciousness. It was written in episodes and there was a high level of repetition. And the swings between tenses made no sense. This book would profit from a good edit An interesting idea; writing a book of memoirs, based on the experience of growing up with a brother and his epilepsy. There were some glimpses of familiar sights from childhood, such as the woman stopping her bike by standing on one pedal. But there was no structure to the book and in some places, it seemed more like a stream of consciousness. It was written in episodes and there was a high level of repetition. And the swings between tenses made no sense. This book would profit from a good edit. Oh, and the music room only appeared once. Rather disappointing, I'm afraid.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    I bought this because the prose is swoonworthy. Limpid, slow, soft as a summer morning. A childhood that seems to go on in endless school holidays at the castle. The sisters are rarely mentioned, perhaps because they didn't form as big a part of his life as his older brother Richard, whose epilepsy had an enormous impact. Doing stuff with the parents, depictions of fun things kids like to do- boats, fishing, birdwatching, exploring the castle and avoiding the creepy haunted bits, this is a quiet I bought this because the prose is swoonworthy. Limpid, slow, soft as a summer morning. A childhood that seems to go on in endless school holidays at the castle. The sisters are rarely mentioned, perhaps because they didn't form as big a part of his life as his older brother Richard, whose epilepsy had an enormous impact. Doing stuff with the parents, depictions of fun things kids like to do- boats, fishing, birdwatching, exploring the castle and avoiding the creepy haunted bits, this is a quiet gem of book- an adult memoir of his unusual childhood lovingly observed.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    An understanding of life which seems perfectly imperfect. A gentle beautifully written memoir, of the author’s childhood and his brother Rich. Rich had epilepsy and scars on his brain which affected his behaviour sometimes. At other times he was gregarious, careful and sweet. This book describes life with someone so unpredictable. This life was led semi-publicly in the family home, a castle in Oxfordshire. A lovely book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    I loved this book. Fiennes writes beautifully and descriptively about the castle he lives in and the surrounding countryside and it is a beautiful part of the country. His description of his brother was also moving and interesting and the relationships within the family were in contrast to my own family - I, too, have a brother with epilepsy and brain damage so this part was of great interest to me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lauren White

    I knew I would love this book as a dear friend recommended it to me. However, I had no idea what to expect, and the insight into epilepsy was very enjoyable. The mode of writing was fascinating, with changes in tense and time used as a technique. It read a bit like an internal monologue. Very special.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I read the first 10 pages, intending to include this in my 20 Books of Summer (there’s a heron on the cover). Time to accept that I just don’t get on with Fiennes’s writing, even when the subjects seem tailor-made for me.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Caro

    A tender, quiet memoir of growing up in a 15th century castle (Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire) in a family whose oldest son, 11 years older than the author, suffered brain damage from epilepsy. If this sounds dreary, it's the fault of my summary. It's a contemplative book that repays slow reading. A tender, quiet memoir of growing up in a 15th century castle (Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire) in a family whose oldest son, 11 years older than the author, suffered brain damage from epilepsy. If this sounds dreary, it's the fault of my summary. It's a contemplative book that repays slow reading.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Boulton

    A gentle but deep memoir along three parallel threads. What I came away with most strongly is William’s parents care, patience, love and gentle husbanding of their home, their family and their community. It’s extremely touching.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margaret McCulloch-Keeble

    A touching memoir. Fiennes seems to have lived an idyllic childhood even during the very obviously difficult times endured by his brother-and by association, his family- due to his severe epilepsy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    M.

    A beautiful tribute to the richness of family and home.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Stanton

    A quietly charming book that through beautiful writing and elegantly rendered scenes and moments accrues its power to move the reader.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hayley Dunning

    Beautiful, mystical, but lacks a direction.

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