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The Rare and the Beautiful: The Lives of the Garmans

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The blurb says that this biography by Cressida Connelly 'charts the loves and lives of three sisters, all of them strikingly beautiful, artistic and wild, who inspired and seduced some of the greatest artists and writers of the early twentieth century' and so it does.


Mary Garman married the poet Roy Campbell and lived a life of Bohemian discomfort and unconventiality. She became the lover of Vita Sackville-West. Kathleen somehow managed to survive as the sculptor, Epstein's lover and mother of this three children, before marrying him later. She became a great collector along with Sally Ryan and her collection is now in the Walsall Art Gallery. Lorna, the youngest was said to be an inspiration to Laurie Lee and Lucien Freud. There were more slightly less colourful sisters and two good looking brothers.


Cressida Connelly has taken on a mammoth task of writing about such a fascinating and sexy family from the prosaic outskirts of Birmingham. To some extent she succeeds, particularly in capturing their confidence and ability to enjoy themselves with very little means and no particular skills. I am left slightly dissatisfied and not entirely convinced that it was their charm and beauty alone which made them so popular and successful within their circle. More detail might have slowed down the story but helped with understanding the dynamic. Perhaps there's another book in there.


It's never dull and if you are interested in early 20th century art and literature and Bohemian life - read it!

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