Cover Image: The Story of the Country House

The Story of the Country House

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Member Reviews

I am fond of reading books set in England, so I was interested in reading this book. I was hoping for more photos to get a better visualization of the places described. However, I would say that the author has done thorough research with this book. I would recommend this to anyone interested in looking for a 'British Country House' reference. 

Thank you to the publisher for allowing me to give an honest review of this arc. :)
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This book was perhaps not entirely what I was expecting it to be. It was not an account of the running and daily life of a country house but a history from an architectural perspective. This is an area I'm totally ignorant of so some of the esoteric terms were meaningless to me - perhaps a glossary would be useful. It is obviously impeccably researched and presents its information in such a manner that it avoids becoming impenetrably academic. It did at times seem to get itself in a tangle with the large number of names and chronology.  I loved the photos but felt it needed maybe twice as many - I wanted to see the places the book described and found it frustrating at times not to have a visual reference. The text itself is engaging, perhaps a little dry in places, but the author's knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject are more than evident. As an overview of the development of the country house through the ages, I thought this book was interesting and entertaining but not what I'd call fascinating or enthralling.
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I found this book fascinating. Looking into  British history  trough masterpieces of the architecture  was very captivating. The pictures posted in the book added extra value to it.
Highly recommended position for history worms.
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Fascinating history of not only houses but of the people who called them home…

Divided by time periods from Medieval to Post War (World War II) each category saw a number of houses featured, showcasing the rich, the titled and the famous of their ages. There were some photos included which gave tantalizing glimpses and I would have loved a lot more of them - both exteriors and interiors.

The details provided, factual and some well-imagined conclusions, built well-balanced and rich descriptions of the various houses and their inhabitants. The descriptions of those who lived there, owned and toiled over the houses and the properties, provided snippets of their real lives. People born to privilege, plus the servants that served them, offered a fascinating eye into the past…

Architecture, innovations, so many people and places included in this book made for dense, though entertaining, reading. I look forward to re-reading it as the writing style and the content will keep me going back to see what I missed.
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This book was more academic than I anticipated, so please be aware of this if you’re looking for a lighter read, which might be what you’d expect given the whimsical cover illustration. Aslet gets deep into detail about all of the included country houses, which the book helpfully has organized by chronological era. Recommended for architecture and history buffs.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.
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I really enjoyed this book.  Admittedly I was originally drawn to the book because of its colorful cover.  It is definitely a fun read for historical architecture lovers.  This chronicles the country house from medieval times through the wars to the present.
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I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This was a fascinating book. I enjoyed it a lot.
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I'll admit that I was first drawn to The Story of the Country House: A History of Places and People by it's gorgeous naïf-style cover (although I haven't as yet been able to discern the identity of the designer). I'm pleased to report that the contents live up to the promise of the packaging!
Clive Aslet explores the the concept of the"country house" as it has evolved over the past millennium (the prologue looks further back to Roman times), in the context of prevailing social, political and economic conditions in Britain and in the wider world. Not only does he detail the architectural history of various well-known example properties, but the extraordinarily fascinating interplay between the actual or intended use of the structure and its, often fluid, physical form over time. He also delves into the influence of international architectural fashions and historical architectural theory. He relates entertaining anecdotes concerning owners, residents and events that took place at particular country estates and the reader will discover many fascinating details. Ever wonder why some country seats use the descriptor Abbey (as I have since watching a certain popular television series)? The answer is contained within.
Properties Aslet describes include: Standsted Park, West Sussex; Penshurst Place, Kent; East Barsham Manor, Norfolk; Knole Park, Kent; Burghey House, Lincolnshire; Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire; Chatsworth House, Derbyshire; Kinross House, Kinross-shire, Scotland; Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire; Chiswick House, London; Hopetoun House, South Queensferry, Scotland; Strawberry Hill, Twickenham; Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire; Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland; Kelmscott Manor, Gloucestershire; Fort Belvedere in Windsor Great Park; and a modernist example in The New House, Wadhurst, Sussex. Aslet also describes several important gardens associated with country properties, such as that designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.
While not a photography-dominated "coffee table" volume, The Story of the Country House is liberally illustrated with photographs and other illustrations throughout. Nevertheless, so intrigued was I with Aslet's text that I frequently found myself using Google Earth and Wikipedia to find pictures and aerial images of the numerous featured properties.
In this time of lockdown, The Story of the Country House provided tantalising fodder for planning future overseas jaunts, as I've seen only a few of these buildings "in the flesh" and would love the opportunity to visit more in the future. I'd highly recommend the book to any reader interested in social and domestic history, British architecture generally, or the fascinating stories and personalities behind many of Britain's well-known landmarks.
My thanks to the author, Clive Aslet, publisher Yale University Press and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this fascinating and entertaining title.
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The history of the British country house, its style, architects and occupants is what this book is about. For my personal taste the author provides the reader with far too much gossip and unnecessary information about said occupants and their extended families etc. At times I found it difficult to extract the parts that were actually about the houses themselves. I did not need to learn so much about habits, mistresses etc, and would have preferred maps, construction overviews and more detailed pictures. The last 3rd of the book is better structured but overall this was a bit of a disappointment.
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As an unapologetic Anglophile, I was interested in the premise of this book. I am a fan of manor houses, castles and stately homes. If I lived in England I would definitely have a National Trust pass. This book was right up my alley,

The book covers country houses from medieval times to just after the world wars. The book has the usual suspects, Hardwicke Hall, Chatsworth, Blenheim, but other houses that I have not heard of such as Lytes Cary and Hopetoun House. The beautiful architecture of the Adams’ in Georgian times, the Regency, Victorian and Edwardian eras where more modern amenities were incorporated into the houses. The book was broken up into eras which made it easy to see the changes that happened over the centuries within the British Isles, There were some very interesting tidbits about individual houses with accompanying pictures. 

I would defiitely recommend this book to anyone interested in architecture or British history. 

Thanks to Netgalley, Yale University Press and the author Clive Aslet for the chance to read and review this book.
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I was given this eARC by NetGalley for an honest review. 

Overall, this is a beautiful history of the country house. It starts from the beginnings (Medieval) and ends in the now. Using drawings and photographs, we are able to see some of the houses from the certain period they were built. This book will have a very niche audience, mainly those interested in architecture and history.
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What an interesting, entertaining, didactic book this is. I enjoyed it thoroughly and will be buying a paper copy for this Christmas. Definitely, a book which has many uses, and it is not just to be read once and forgotten, but I feel that I will come back to it again and again.
On the one hand this is exactly what the title says: a story of the English country house, ie a narrative that traces the birth and evolution of the typology from the Middle Ages to our days (one of the buildings considered was finished in 2019) and does so from an architectural, historical and personal point of view. Not only do we learn about the changing spacial arrangements of the house and the reasons behind them (political, social, aesthetic, economic), but we also get an intelligent, never patronising, introduction to architectural terms (be them enfilades or different approaches to dealing with columns), and the all important human element of the story (owners, builders, architects, monarchs...) is dealt with great anecdotes (eg poor Pugin collapsing at 15 in Notre Dame of drawing exhaustion or the vagaries of ), and succinct but revealing portraits (eg the 1st Duke of Devonshire "a fiery and dissolute man who fought several duels and gambled heavily non the races and cockfights at Newmarket").
The illustrations which accompany the text are relatively sparse but always making a point, and they do whet the appetite to either visit the place if at all possible, or to read further on the topic - and there is a well-thought-out bibliography/further-reading section, and a full index.
I would have loved to have the names of the houses in bold throughout the text, and/or an appendix arranged by the capitular historic headings with the names of those houses. Equally, a county section with the houses described... because I feel that in its masterful succinctness this is a proper companion guide (to keep and refer to) to many hours of enjoyment actually visiting many of the places mentioned or looking and reading at home. 
The great beauty of this book, a tour-de-force of compression yet detailed knowledge, is to remind us, to make us see the houses considered in a proper continuum, not in isolation, as we often see them, but as a network to be thought about in relation to each other, to their past and present times. Scholarly yet very accessible, this story actually democratises this most class-ridden of buildings, and somehow shows them for what they are: artefacts of projection and not only private but also communal endeavour.
Many thanks to Yale University Press via NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this great book.
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I was quite sceptical going into this book, but I have to say- Clive Aslet has written a fascinating and fun history of the country house that has something for everyone. Without overstating it, I will say that I’m nerdy enough to have done research on countless country houses. Despite that, I still learned a lot from Story.

Aslet is informative and informal, making for a fun reading experience. Architectural history can be dry, but Story never falls into the trap. And impressively in addition to covering 800 years of country homes in England, he also covers Scotland and Ireland. As someone who lived in Ireland and visited several of the (surviving) homes mentioned, I was thrilled to see Ireland discussed. It really is a whirlwind tour across time and across homes, and I will definitely be giving this as a gift for the holidays!
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4.5 wonderfully history laden stars rounded up. 

An intriguing look through history and the country home. Informative, well researched and written, and utterly fascinating, 

I enjoyed this greatly and wouldn’t hesitate to gift this to any armchair historian, lover of classic literature, lover of architecture, or Anglophile. 

My thanks to Yale University Press and NetGalley for an eARC of this book. Opinions shared are influenced by nothing other than my reading experience.
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*I received this book (Via eArc by Netgalley) for free from the Publisher ( Yale University Press) in exchange for an honest review* 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading this book. I'm a huge fan of history and for me this was the perfect book to read as I am also reading at the same time the Philippa Gregory's plantagenet and tudor novels and I think they pair perfectly with this nonfiction because you are reading of these historical characters in these palaces and country houses and then you see the historical and archeological history of the palace or house itself. I believe it to be a super elevated experience. I really think that I will get a physical copy because there were moments in which I truly wanted to annotate the sections and make notes in the margins because it was super cool and I am a history buff so any aspect is very fascinating to me. Aslet truly knows to be super detail oriented when it came to the background and some times it could have been a bit jarring but it always drew me back in. I can totally see this author doing a lot more than just the history of houses. I think he would be the perfect person to write about cathedrals and Armenian architecture because he is so into the history of houses and architecture, Armenian architecture is very rich in history and is very unique in style and design. 
Anyways, this was a fun book to read and very informative about both architecture and the time period it was from. *Thanks again to the publisher and Netgalley for the e-arc*
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"The Story of the Country House" talked about the changes in the British country house (as found throughout the United Kingdom) from the Roman villa and Medieval manor house to modern times. The author broke the subject into time periods and talked about the social customs and developing technologies that influenced the layout and look of the houses. He talked about the people who built country houses (the owners and the architects) and about specific houses (including a picture, usually of the outside). He also talked about the different architectural styles and briefly about trends in landscaping styles, location selection, house size, etc. I'd recommend this book to those interested in the people who built and wider social context of British country houses.
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this book is so fantastic! please pick it up as soon as possible! this is so good and so cute and so wonderful and all the great and beautiful things. for realz.
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This book looks like a huge undertaking.  He has authored several books about country houses since 1982.  This reader has not read any of his previous work.   I am unclear who is the intended audience for this book.  It covers a lot of territory: nobility, architecture, architects, English history, world history as it pertains to the British Empire, art, design.  If you don’t know much about those subjects, you’re likely to be lost.  It is not written with enough narrative to be an interesting narrative non-fiction, nor is it a technical or academic tome (though it could be with appropriate changes).  The cover implies it could be meant for lay people outside of academia or serious enthusiasts, however, there isn’t enough explanation, interpretation or clarity for a new enthusiast to follow along. (It improves half-way through at the Mid-Georgian chapter, and continues to improve thereafter, which is somewhat expected as there is likely more historical information closer to our own time, but readers will drop off before then.)  It would help for information to be formatted for easy comprehension.  Charts of landowners, timelines and a map would go a long way to assist any reader regardless of their familiarity with the subject.   A glossary with illustrations is needed. As I had trouble following the narrative, pulling lists and timelines out of paragraphs would be supportive.  I appreciate the color photographs.
There are bits and bobs of interesting facts sprinkled throughout, once you wade through the tall grass, unsure of your direction.   At times, bits aren’t polished enough with surrounding sentences to grab attention.  I caught myself re-reading paragraphs to get context, getting lost or mired in fact sentence after fact sentence without the linkages between to help me understand what all these facts amounted to.  Its not conversational.  There are occasional narratives that were easier to follow.  The author can turn a phrase, and I do appreciate efficiency.   Overall it leans toward narrative non-fiction.  I just wish it was more narrative;  more explanation, more interpretation, more juicy bits! 
If you are a reader of the magazine Country Life, or have enjoyed his previous works, then you are likely to enjoy this one as well.  It has a lot of information and the narrative does improve as the book goes on.  If you are a Downton Abbey fan and know little else, this isn’t likely to satisfy.  If you are in-between, I suggest you start at Mid-Georgian or Victorian and go back to the beginning if you are finding it interesting.
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I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

In Regency Romances, the characters are often jaunting off to house parties in the country. Curious about these British country houses, I was pleased to be able to read The Story of the Country House by Clive Aslet. The book takes the reader on an architectural tour of country homes through the ages: Medieval through the current day.

The text focuses on the houses themselves, along with the owners and architects. There is only a nod to the historical context. The “story” is interesting, but the narrative makes for a rather rambling tour. Details began to blur.

I often found it hard to visualize what the author was describing. There are a few photographs, but not as many as I would have liked. Of course, photographs are not possible for many of the buildings. The author makes the point that a lot of the homes are gone while others have been altered significantly over the years. There are in-depth descriptions of some homes, but sketches or floor plans may have made it easier to visualize what the buildings looked like.

Overall, I think this may make a better reference book to dip into for representative houses of different time periods than as a story to read straight through.
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What's not to love about this book? It is so well researched and thorough and I truly feel like I learned so much about the history of the English country house and how it has progressed over the centuries. It was so interesting to dive into the changes in architecture over the years and beyond. I look forward to reading more from Clive Aslet. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.
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