Period piece : a Cambridge childhood

by Gwen Raverat

Paperback, 1960





London Faber 1960


PERIOD PIECE is Gwen Raverat's account of her Victorian childhood in Cambridge. The granddaughter of Charles Darwin, she was later famed for her wood-engravings, many of which illustrate these stories, and her associations with the Bloomsbury Group. In this masterpiece of comic writing, Raverat brings to life her eccentric aunts and uncles with snapshots of an extremely individual family. There was Aunt Etty, fussy and "far from calm" and Uncle Richard with his egg-shaped waistcoat and fuzzy, waggly beard, whose socks always fell down. It is also a great social memoir, describing life in the late 19th century, growing up amid the fads and fetishes of academic and Victorian England. It is clear why this witty and irreverent book became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic when it was published in 1952..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member chilirlw
First off, I notice I've been using the word "charming" in a few reviews lately. So I will not refer to this book as being charming. It is, however, delightful, appealing, winning, and entrancing. It is a memoir of the author's childhood in the late Victorian period, and though her grandfather was Charles Darwin, and most of the relatives she profiles are Darwins or Wedgwoods, several of whom had quite distinguished careers, one doesn't read the book to find out about the lives of famous people. In fact, no one does anything particularly noteworthy in the book at all. What delights is rather the affectionate picture of a time and place, and the wonderful wonderful voice of the writer: "The first religious experience that I can remember is getting under the nursery table to pray that the dancing mistress might be dead before we got to the Dancing Class." "By all accounts I was a charming baby. As I have never been considered particularly charming since then, I think it only just to myself to set this on record…How I have gone off since then!" The book is illustrated thoughout with the author's own line drawings, with captions which quite often made me giggle with glee. A great escape from the tumult of one's own hurried life.… (more)
LibraryThing member sdzonsons13
I first read this book at school, in about 1962. I've always loved it, and I still have my original copy, which is the pink Faber edition. I love the illustrations done by the author, and I often look at it and re-read sections. It's like time travel, and makes the whole era come alive. I've always loved totally everything about it, from when I was about 14. However not everyone in my class liked it, lots thought it boring.(!!) There is another book about Gwen Raverat that I just found, with examples of her beautiful woodcuts...I wish I had one - .… (more)
LibraryThing member edella
Period Piece is an altogether delightful book, a kind of insouciant wit, too appreciative to be called cynical, too unillusioned to be called pious. Mrs Raverat is not a Darwin for nothing. Her book comes out of a highly civilized background – the English professional and intellectual middle-classes, which, if not the backbone of England, may be held to be, on the whole, its mainstream of culture, and of sophisticated intelligence and wit.… (more)
LibraryThing member atreic
The preface to this book states 'This is a circular book. It does not begin at the beginning and go on to the end; it is all going on at the same time, sticking out like the spokes of a wheel from the hub, which is me. So it does not matter which chapter is read first or last'. That seems a pretty accurate description of this sweet, rambling autobiographical look into Cambridge at the turn of the century before the wars. Gwen, the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, is in an enviably priviledged position, although she has a wry eye for the constraints that that places upon her. I must confess, I think I loved this book mostly because I love Cambridge. The viewpoints it gives you on things I have taken forgranted for a long time - where the Mill pub is now there was once a Mill! Punts in Cambridge are a relatively new innovation! - were fascinating.… (more)



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