Monday, 1 June 2015

A Tuscan childhood, Kinta Beevor

A childhood spend in a Tuscan castle. Sleeping in hammocks in the roofgarden during the Summer, tickling trout so you can catch them, buying fresh produce from the local market and the festivities that are organized when the grapes are picked.

Kinta and her brothers John and Gordon had a great childhood, just after WWI. Their parents were writer and journalist Lina Duff-Gordon and Aubrey Waterfield the painter. Aubrey bought the castle at the beginning of the 20th century and he and his wife enjoyed the life in Tuscany. They were those typical eccentric and upperclass English who entertained artistic friends such as D.H. Lawrence and Robert Trevelyan who were writers and Rex Whistler who was a painter.

Lina and Aubrey were caught up in their own endeavors and did not pay much attention to their children. The only one who did look after them was Lina’s aunt, Janet Ross who lived on an estate near Florence.  She was the unofficial leader of the Anglo-Florentines who came to live in Florence since the late 19th century. 

Janet Ross was a formidable lady who wrote several books and was not afraid of strong opinions. She even managed to put Virginia Woolf in her place when she came to tea once.
She lived at Poggio Gherardo, that was mentioned by Boccaccio in his Decamerone. Janet Ross and her husband bought the estate in 1888.
Janet Ross
When aunt Janet died in 1927, she left the use of the estate to Lina, and the Waterfields moved to Florence. The castle was now only for vacations.

Kinta grew up as a young woman in an Italy where the fascists got more and more powerful. 

After her marriage she left for Engeland, but her parents stayed in Florence, even though Lina was not popular with the new regime, due to her critical newspaper articles. When WWII broke out, Lina and Aubrey managed to get to England just in time, on the last train to France before war was announced.

After the war Lina went back to Poggio Gherardo and lived there for several years, Aubrey had died during the war. Kinta and her family would visit Italy every Summer.

The castle in Aulle
Kinta Beevor brings back her childhood memories in A Tuscan childhood, about the things she did, the dishes that were cooked, the customs of Tuscany and the relations between the English and the Italians. She manages to do so without any sentimentality, but tells it just how it was.

On the other hand there is the nostalgia that you get when you realize that this is a world that has vanished. Building the country again after the war changed society and the estate and the castle would be sold eventually. The fate of the castle is quite sad, the government purchased it and a commission said it had to brought back into its original state, so the roof and the roofgarden were completely demolished.

A Tuscan childhood is not just a recount of her childhood, it also tells us about the Anglo-Florentine community and aspects of the history of Tuscany and Florence. This makes that the book is not merely a recollection of arbitrary memories, but it gives an image of a generation and that gives it depth and significance

A very interesting book.  


Published in 1993, this paperback edition in 2015

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