Praise for A Weekend at Blenheim
“I think it’s safe to say that the present occupants of Blenheim Palace will blush with embarrassment or redden with rage when they read J. P. Morrissey’s devastating portrayal of their ancestor, the ninth Duke of Marlborough, in his new novel, A Weekend at Blenheim. It is a fascinating nightmare of ducal superiority, snobbery, and stupidity, as financed by his Vanderbilt heiress duchess and as witnessed by a poor American houseguest.” Dominick Dunne, author of Another City, Not My Own and People Like Us
“A Weekend at Blenheim is a superb reconstruction of the aristocratic autumn of Edwardian England. More than this, it is a gripping tale of intrigue that breathes new life into the ‘country house mystery’ with well-drawn characters, a stylish narrative, and the sophisticated parallels drawn between the baroque art of the palace and the even more baroque lives of its inhabitants.” Iain Pears, author of An Instance of the Fingerpost
“J. P. Morrissey’s descriptive powers are extraordinary and bring to life palaces and attics and paintings and gardens breathlessly.” William F. Buckley, Jr., author of Saving the Queen and Stained Glass
“A Weekend at Blenheim is a remarkably engaging novel. Very few books manage to be this entertaining, clever, and well-written all at once. I recommend it heartily.” David Liss, author of A Conspiracy of Paper
“A Weekend at Blenheim is an evocative, mesmerizing, turn-of-the-century page-turner that kept me enthralled and guessing word by word, from start to gasp-inducing last page.” Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance
Despite its glorious setting (Blenheim, the ancestral seat of the Duke of Marlborough, in 1905) and elegant cast (Charles Spencer-Churchill and his duchess, Consuelo Churchill, n e Vanderbilt; the duke's cousin, Winston Churchill; the painter John Singer Sargent), this period piece lacks refinement. Hired to redo the duchess's living quarters in the palace, John Vanbrugh, a young American architect, uncovers a cryptic message whose meaning and potential import careen the narrative into a vast set of intrigues the murder of a young maidservant, a missing sketchbook of compromising nudes, multiple affairs of the heart, even the legitimacy of the dukedom itself. Though generally suspenseful and entertaining, the book feels over-engineered, with its byzantine plot and often forced or contrived logic. Moreover, the droll, witty tone is at odds with the seriousness of the action as well as with the decadence of the duke and duchess and their hangers-on. The intelligent, prudish Vanbrugh is disgusted by the lifestyles of the rich and famous he encounters at Blenheim, but he comes across as more of a prig than a moralist. More than a few readers may find it in dubious taste that Morrissey ascribes some monstrous behavior to the duke and duchess, who were after all real people. Without a truly sympathetic character to engage the reader, the story, like the palace itself, comes off as unpleasant and unappealing. (Mar. 25) Forecast: Plugs from such class acts as William F. Buckley Jr. and Iain Pears, as well as the perennial appeal of the doings of decadent British aristocracy (e.g., Gosford Park), should ensure a strong start. The author's being a New York editor and writer won't hurt either. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.