Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love

by Joanne Drayton

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’ll give everyone a heads up – when you know how things end up for this volatile and flamboyant duo, this is rather a sad story.

Peter Hudson hid a lot of his past. David Halls hid a fair bit of his present from his English family. Or at least he allowed them to ignore his homosexuality.

Interesting to think that neither of them were ever truly ‘out’. Australian Hudson and British Halls met in New Zealand when homosexuality was still a crime. (embarrassingly, homosexuality was only legalised in NZ in 1986.)

So it is interesting while they always appeared to be themselves – they weren’t.

Both had strong entrepreneurial skills. They had several successful (and not so successful) businesses. Halls was a talented shoe designer and they made some good deals in NZ real estate.

Kiwis loved their Kiwi cooking show where they argued, set the kitchen on fire (accidentally!) and threw food on the floor. They lived like kings, but particularly in the early days of their show they were woefully underpaid. And they obviously made a few enemies at TVNZ as their show was cancelled when still reasonably popular.

I’ll mention that alcohol played a big part in their frequent arguments. Brings back unfond memories of those older generations in the 1970s for me.

A big talking agent promised them the moon if they moved to England. While they did have a cooking show in England (that was mostly panned by the critics) visa problems for the Australian Hudson, disasters in English real estate and, most tragically of all Peter’s prostate cancer came back. This lead to serious money problems. Deeply in debt and depressed, David Halls committed suicide a year after Peter’s death.

I hope the friend who lent them the money for the London flat was paid back. (not clear from this book)

The other weakness of this book is a rather rambling epilogue, which is more about the author than the two stars (because these guys were Stars with a capital S!) This book was put aside when Ms Drayton had trouble getting funding and the epilogue which for me contained a bit too much about the author and her musings. Your mileage may vary.

I’ll leave you with this picture of the guys with fellow NZ cookery TV host, Alison Holst. I find this photo very endearing and so typical of the warm personalities of all three of them.

The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce

by Hallie Rubenhold

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Crim. Con. was an expression used in at least one of [author:Georgette Heyer|18067]’s novels.

I’ve now found out more than I ever thought I would have wanted to know about what that slightly odd expression means. (it is an abbreviation of Criminal Conversations.)

Look at these sumptuous Sir Joshua Reynolds portraits.

Lady Worsley

In Public Domain

Her portrait had her dressed to match her husband, Sir Richard Worsley. His likeness was taken a few years earlier.

In Public Domain

Unfortunately, the Worsleys weren’t married long enough for the portraits to ever hang together.

Worsley, monied himself, wanted a wealthy wife. Seymour (yes, that was Lady Worsley’s christian name) was very young, frivolous, fun loving and wanted a normal sex life. That was never going to happen with her hubby. To put it mildly, he was a very strange lad indeed.

Not withstanding this, the couple rubbed along quite happily in a ménage à trois with their mutual friend George Bisset. Seymour’s second child was fathered by Bisset, but Worsley acknowledged the little girl as his own. But George & Seymour fell in love, circumstances changed where they could no longer live together and they decided to elope.

And that is where the happy part of the story ended, as it turned out that in spite of his unconventional life style, Richard Worsley put a very high value on the proprieties being observed and showed his true colours as a miserly, vindictive man. To modern eyes, George Bisset was no prize either. he eventually desserts Seymour when Worley would only give Seymour a separation, not a divorce.But just as I was preparing to be thoroughly depressed by another story on how unfair history was to women Seymour fought back – & wouldn’t back down.

I’d say that Seymour was ahead of her time, but Ms Rubenhold mentions quite a few of Seymour’s friends that were also very wild. Georgette Heyer’s world this is not!

I wouldn’t describe Seymour’s life story as a totally happy one, (Sir Richard was determined to have her live in poverty, she was separated from her children & possibly was imprisioned during the French Revolution) but it was certainly more exciting than her mean spirited ex! Sir Richard ended up a recluse.

Ms Rubenhold does a great job with this story, even though almost no correspondence from Seymour survives. She rarely resorts to speculation. There were a couple of minor editing errors, but overall this story was a riot and I am glad to have read it.

Barry Brickell: A Head of Steam

by Christine Leov Leland

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The honesty in this biography (both by the subject and the author) make this one of the best biographies I’ve read

I never knew local icon Barry Brickell but like everyone else who lived on the Coromandel I certainly knew of him. The Hauraki Herald (back when it was truly a local paper, not a glorified advertorial) regularly had Barry’s contributions to the Letters to the Editor, – usually on environmental issues where Brickell followed no one’s drum but his own.

And of course I have visited the wonderful Driving Creek Railway several times, the last being late last year.

I’ve been struggling with what I want to write in this review because it is definitely warts and all. I’m assuming Barry (who died in 2016) was OK with that.

From childhood, Barry was different. His passions were fire, pottery and railways (at the time of this book’s writing his father was still annoyed about the time Barry and one of his sisters nearly burnt the family home down). Barry’s mother was extremely protective of her son and said she would always make sure she was home by 3.30 from school, as Barry’s relationships with other school kids and most of his teachers was so strained and Barry would arrive home shaking.

To please his father, Barry became a teacher (hard to understand how anyone could have felt this would ever work out) Barry left teaching after two terms and as the author says;

From 1961 onwards the story is of Barry’s choices for himself.

And his choices were doing amazing pottery and building a small railway (in fact two different ones)

Barry driving one of his trains. It must have been a freezing cold day for him to be wearing a jersey. He found all clothing constricting – he always cut off the sleeves on his shirts and wore the skimpiest of shorts. Unannounced guests often found him working in the nude!

This photo is b/w but it gives an idea of the gorgeous scenery the train ride takes visitors through;

This book is very honest and I will be honest in return – the speculation about Barry’s sexuality made me squirm a bit. But when you look at his pottery;

You can see the sensuality. Underneath a different piece of pottery the author writes;

Brickell believes that sexual activity reduces the energy, creativity and life force of the male. His sculptures reveal a fascination with the sensuality of human forms.

You would think this would sound like a conflicted personality, but I don’t think Barry was, once he started living life the way he wanted.

Minor criticism is that this book did need better proofreading. I couldn’t use one very quotable quote as the speech marks weren’t “closed off”, so I couldn’t tell where Barry’s thoughts ended & the author’s began. Wrong words in a couple of places (sandals instead of shorts.) A pity.

I’ll leave you with a Barry Brickell quote.

I am a visionary individual and have my own thoughts. I do not want to be conditioned in my outlook by conventional or popular opinion and am prepared to be labelled an eccentric if necessary. I cannot teach. I am far too busy with my own work. People educate themselves when they are fulfilled and happy in their own work. There is no such thing as teaching, only learning.

Daphne A Portrait of Daphne du Maurier

Daphne: Portrait of Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne: Portrait of Daphne Du Maurier by Judith Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

Quite simply, one of the best biographies I’ve ever read!

Not without flaws and I’ll get those out of the way first.

📚 The biggest for me (And Cook isn’t the only literary biographer who does this) was the spoiler filled summaries of D du M’s books. Fortunately I realised very quickly that Cook was going to do this with every…single…book and skipped over them. While I am keen to read The Loving Spirit, the following two novels sound dire and I’m highly unlikely to attempt them, so I’m not to worried about having read their synopsis.

📚 The book is unbalanced, in the sense that there was was a lot about D du M’s (fascinating) ancestors, family & early life, but not so much about her life from when she became famous. This is because D du M herself wrote biographies, about members of her family & she reluctantly wrote an autobiography (the wonderfully titled Growing Pains) but she was always clear that she wanted her private life from when she married “Tommy” Browning to remain private.

📚 The bibliography is very short. & some of the books (like the works about the Oliviers) are only marginally important. There are omissions in the indexing ( I was frustrated to find Cousin Geoffrey missing) & a minor mistake in the bibliography of D du M’s own works.

But Cook is helped by having a brief acquaintance with the Brownings in the 60s. Cook visited D du M’s beloved Menabilly & she did a dramatisation of The King’s GeneralSo she knew their personalities, but doesn’t try to make the relationship closer than it was. & she doesn’t state as fact some details that the Scottish legal system would regard as “not proven.” The main example of this is Daphne’s famed father, the actor Gerald du Maurier’s obsessive love for his middle daughter? Even what Cook recounts (& a photograph she includes of Gerald looking adoringly at his adult daughter & holding her hand ) she leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions. With Daphne’s second cousin, actor Geoffrey du Maurier, Cook is more explicit. I wish I could find a picture of Geoffrey online – so I could print it out & throw darts at it! At 26 & married he was flirting with 15 year old Daphne, which later progressed to kissing. He was undoubtedly grooming this young girl & I know, different time & country but I can’t understand why the visibly jealous Gerald didn’t ban him from the home.

Daphne’s life was undoubtedly privileged -her father financially supported her and let her live separately from the family while she followed her dream. Her famous name opened doors for her. But those doors would have closed again if it wasn’t for Jamaica Inn and then the phenomenal success of Rebecca(still one of my all time favourite books, although My Cousin Rachel runs it very close)

It is clear that Menabilly (the near ruined manor she leased & lovingly restored) was the love of D du M’s life. Losing both Menabilly & her husband Tommy very close together sent D du M into a deep depression. Her frugality & eccentricity became more pronounced & this book has me wondering if D du M was suffering from dementia.

More than worth your time if you are looking for a Daphne biography that isn’t sensationalist.

Recommended

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