A Scottish Journal
“It is difficult to remain unseduced by this winsome account of a misalliance between a New England woman of literary taste and architectural sophistication and a frugal Scottish laird in his dilapidated ancestral home.” ––The [London]Times
“The poignancy of her fractured love affair with both the man and the house shines through. . . . perhaps only an ‘incomer’ could have written such an intimate and acutely observed account of a disappearing social order which deserves a memoir like this as a lasting testimonial.” ––The Spectator
"Fascinating. . . the book lifts and excels in [Rathbone's] description of her husband. In writing about John with affection, exasperation and sadness, Rathbone has managed to nail down a little bit of the Scottish soul in all its stark splendor."––New York Times Book Review
"Sometimes comical, often touching, The Guynd is at once the story of a house, a place and a marriage. Rathbone writes so beautifully of the house and of rural Scotland that our lives are enriched, as hers undoubtedly was, by the struggle to become part of them and, by burnishing their ancient charms, bring them more brilliantly into our century." ––Chicago Tribune
“I knew when I married the man that I married the mansion,” begins Belinda Rathbone’s captivating memoir of her relationship with a Scottish ‘laird'––and with his 400-acre ancestral home, The Guynd. But there was also much that this urban American did not know. Finding herself in a setting like that of many a classic English novel, both enchanting and treacherous, Rathbone shares hard-won lessons in dealing with a grand but crumbling Georgian mansion still recovering from the effects of two world wars, not to mention a hopelessly overgrown garden, troublesome tenants, and an intractable class system that is often dangerous to navigate.
We gather country wisdom such as the value of dead elm trees, the intricate workings of the slow-cooking Aga stove, how to pluck a pheasant, and what to wear to the county ball. We encounter characters such as the young Countess of Southesk at her weekly yoga class, Christopher, the garden historian, prowling the overgrown arboretum, and Max, the demanding American guest who serves to heighten the ever-present culture gap. We follow the young life of Elliot, the son and heir, to the village school, the local Presbyterian church and birthday parties on emerald lawns.
But the story centers on Belinda’s husband John, the embattled, eccentric, exacting laird of the Guynd, and the obstacles the couple face together in maintaining the ancestral property through good times and bad. With the dogged persistence of the biographer, Rathbone delves into local histories, anecdotes, and family papers in an effort to understand her surroundings and ultimately to free her husband from the grip of his past. Like a letter home from a strange land, The Guynd offers a uniquely privileged view into the pastoral Scotland of today that is both wry and poignant, oddball and deeply reflective of the ties that bind us.
Advance praise for The Guynd: A Scottish Journal:
“Like any true love story, this one ends in tears. I found Belinda Rathbone's The Guynd subtle, informative, inviting, and redolent of the rueful wisdom gained by an engaging woman who has learned (the hard way) how seductive are the rival powers of a new husband's ancient family home. Entranced by the quandaries of dilapidation offered by the house, I could only keep the author company as she gamely walked, with her new baby, through the ruins of the abandoned gardens. The book's a grand read. Any man whose sentimental leanings tilt toward impractical real estate would do well to keep it away from his wife.” ––Nicholas Kilmer, author of A Place In Normandy
“A fascinatingly vivid account of a relationship with a man and a mansion. I loved this book for its evocation of a world I knew from my own childhood, and I admired it for its generous exploration of the complex relationships between past and present, old and new, American and Scottish, tradition and invention. A lovely and beguiling memoir.” ––Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture
“Belinda Rathbone’s account of her romance with a four-hundred-year-old Scottish country estate is as sharp-eyed as a field guide, as nuanced as an anthropological study, as gripping as a book of wilderness exploration, and as bittersweet as a classic love story.”––George Howe Colt, author of The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home
BELINDA RATHBONE is a photography historian who has written widely on modern and contemporary photographers. She is author of Walker Evans: A Biography, a New York Times Notable Book of 1995, and has contributed to magazines such as House & Garden and Architectural Digest. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.October 2005 $23.95 clothbound (Can. $33.00)