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  • Noble Ambitions

  • The Fall and Rise of the English Country House After World War II
  • By: Adrian Tinniswood
  • Narrated by: Roger May
  • Length: 13 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (22 ratings)

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Noble Ambitions cover art

Noble Ambitions

By: Adrian Tinniswood
Narrated by: Roger May
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Summary

A rollicking tour of the English country home after World War II, when swinging London collided with aristocratic values.

As the sun set slowly on the British Empire, its mansions fell and rose. Ancient families were reduced to demolishing the parts of their stately homes they could no longer afford, dukes and duchesses desperately clung to their ancestral seats, and a new class of homeowners bought their way into country life. A delicious romp, Noble Ambitions pulls us into these crumbling halls of power, leading us through the juiciest bits of postwar aristocratic history - from Mick Jagger dancing at deb balls to the scandals of Princess Margaret. Capturing the spirit of the age, historian Adrian Tinniswood proves that the country house is not only an iconic symbol, but a lens through which to understand the shifting fortunes of the British elite in an era of monumental social change.

©2021 Adrian Tinniswood (P)2021 Basic Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"Erudite and delightfully gossipy.”—Wall Street Journal

"Tinniswood [is] an erudite historian of country-house life in all its anecdote-worthy vagaries.”—Financial Times 

"If you’re still mourning the end of ‘Downton Abbey,’ this book, charting the rise and fall of the English country house, is most definitely the book for you. A lively history of post-World War II England as told through its grandest estates and ancestral seats.”—New York Post 

What listeners say about Noble Ambitions

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Very enjoyable

I bought this on a whim and enjoyed every minute of it. If you’re interested in social history but don’t want anything too dry and academic then this is a great place to start. The narration is excellent too.

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3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great historical resumé of a recently bygone era.

I gave it only three stars (for its reader) because of the toe curling mispronunciation of names. (Are readers not advised by an editorial team before embarking on a project?). Here are three examples of Roger May’s howlers: Robin Douglas-Home (he says HOME when it should be HUME). Duncan Sandys should be pronounced SANDS - not SANDIES, David Mlinaric (not so easy but not correct as pronounced by May!) and Twistleton-Wykham-Feines should be pronounced TWISSleton WICKham (to rhyme with ‘miss’ and ‘hit’, not with “twice” and “hike”, Lord Harewood is referred to as HAIRwood when it should be HARwood…Oh dear. It was painful! In short, if reading aloud from a book on the Nobility the names should first be learned correctly.
That aside the book is full of variety, historical detail, interesting gossip, and is very enjoyable.

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2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Very entertaining

Really enjoyed this audio book. Packed with interesting facts and stories peppered with fun gossip.
Well worth a listen.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Meandering social history

I am very interested in Theo’s particular let of social history, the book does pull together many strands that give an insight into the life of the great and not so great country houses of England.
However I found the author wanders in directions that are perhaps only tenuously linked (E.g. all those fifties and sixties scandals) and a clearer narrative line or other focus might have been better.
I also found his voice (not the reader, the author) sometimes rather snide and unnecessary.
That the book finishes in 1974 (now almost half a century ago) suggests there is room for an update, if one is to be undertaken, I would like to know more about the collections these houses contained and how they came to be, less about the vicissitudes of the various owners fortunes.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting social history of British Grand Houses.

I enjoyed this very much, moving through history and learning about the changes along the way,that came to both the large houses and their occupants.
It was a long listen and one that certainly contained a long of names ( agree with another reviewer ) not all pronounced correctly.
But enjoyed it non the less.

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So interesting but do much to take in as well 😊

Loved this as really helpful and ties historical houses and people together from a multitude of observations, periods, people and classes. But you need to be focused as it’s not a blah blah in the background kind of book.

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