Victoria Glendinning at Bailey Hill, Castle Cary

The Book Show Sky Arts April 27, 2011

Biographer Victoria Glendinning chooses her Book Club recommendation from the scenic bookshop of Bailey Hill in Castle Cary. Castle Cary is small town in South Somerset and at its heart is the Bailey Hill Bookshop. Victoria says: ‘Lynn and her colleagues know their stock very, very well. And I like the way they mix up second hand books and new books, so they are just books. I don’t think I have ever been in here and left it empty handed, even if I didn’t mean to buy anything.’ Victoria has chosen A Legacy by Sybille Bedford, which was first published in 1956 and is semi-autobiographical. ‘One of the reason I think it would be a good Book Club choice is that I have read it now four times and every time I feel like I am reading a different book, because there are so many different strands to it. Sometimes it can be very funny, and sometimes it seems completely tragic and it always seems amazingly interesting. So it would be very good for discussion... It’s European novel, this is about France and Germany in the late 19th century and about two very different families and how they are interconnected by marriage. There is the Berlin family which is over-stuffed with food and furniture and fabrics and live in a great dark flat in Berlin. They don’t just have breakfast, they have second breakfast at half past eleven – they never stop eating... Contrast that with the Mediterranean world of impressionist paintings and wine being poured into glasses, sitting on terraces and geraniums – and that whole heavenly warmth of the South. A Legacy by Sybille Bedford‘Sybille Bedford is writing about her parents and her grandparents’ world and she comes into it as a child, who doesn’t really know what’s going on at all. The spoilt adults, who never do a tuck of work, live on allowances and no one seems to really love each other properly, yet it’s completely heartbreaking. To me it’s an inexhaustible book and I do hope you read it.’ On the marriage of Julius von Felden and Melanie Merz, the fortunes of two families are somewhat fatally entwined. In A Legacy, Sybille Bedford depicts their vastly different worlds the wealthy bourgeois life of the Merzes in Berlin and the aristocratic eccentricity of the von Felden dynasty in rural Baden. Portrayed with exquisite wit and acute observation, their personal upheavals and tragedies are set against the menacing backdrop of a newly unified Germany combined with Prussian militarism in the decades before the First World War.