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  1. This has been on my mental TBR for a long time, since I read Bailey's other book, The Secret Rooms. While that one was a fascinating story about dysfunctional aristocrats (one of my favourite subjects!), this was a much more important and multi layered story and, rightly, better known. It deals with the Fitzwilliam family, a mining dynasty from South Yorkshire, and how their wealth and influence declined over the course of the early 20th Century. It is in part a story about industrial relations and economic policy as well as about the family and their enormous house, Wentworth. My one criticism is that she often goes off into long digressions about topics or people whose relevance isn't immediately obvious, and the reader needs a bit of patience and trust in the writer to know it will eventually become clear, which it always does. I enjoyed it particularly because it's quite similar to the story of where I live. This used to be the land of the Dukes of Hamilton and their relatives. Like Wentworth, Hamilton Palace was an enormous, ostentatious private residence, built purely to show off their wealth. But, to maintain that wealth, they had to mine their land, and this created a population boom and industrialisation of their pastoral idyll. The Hamiltons weren't as benevolent as the Fitzwilliams and sold the mining rights (and, eventually, the rights to the coal underneath their house, leading to its demolition) whereas the "Fitzbilly" pits were directly owned by the family, and they looked after their miners well. But the story of the various disputes really helped me to understand the mining heritage where I live.
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