Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, & a Family Secret

Posted by nliakos on July 27, 2014

by Catherine Bailey (Penguin 2013)

Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize the transition from pre-World War to post-World-War One society described in this fascinating account of why the 9th Duke of Rutland chose to die in a suite of uncomfortable rooms in his family’s ancient castle, Belvoir, rather than in his lavishly furnished rooms elsewhere in the castle. Other similarities with Downton Abbey include aristocratic houses used as hospitals, aristocratic daughters working as nurses, entailments and trench warfare. It is a sad story of a little boy who was born to a life of privilege but denied his parents’ love and approval; even as a young man, he was manipulated and controlled by others. The book is written like a novel and the reader moves from chapter to chapter, unable to put it down (at least I did). One of the most fascinating aspects is Bailey’s description of how she researched her subject. New questions constantly arise; she read reams of private letters, diaries, and documents and travels from castle to archive and beyond. Her focus moves back and forth from her own research to the life of John Manners, who was to become the ninth Duke. I was swept along by the parallel stories of historian and duke and recommend the book unreservedly.


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