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Period Piece

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  235 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Memories of a turn-of-the-century childhood by the granddaughter of Charles Darwin
Paperback, 290 pages
Published October 7th 1991 by University of Michigan Press (first published 1952)
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(showing 1-30 of 586)
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William Pryor
My grandmother's book was a classic almost on the day she wrote it in 1952, just 4 years before she died. Its circular shape is unusual for a memoir - she bundles together her memories under subjects (e.g. Uncles, i.e. the sons of Charles Darwin) - and adds considerably to its charm. Despite this lack of narrative beginning, middle and end, the quality and wit of her writing carries you through to the end in a trice, helped considerably by her telling pen and ink drawings. No wonder the book is ...more
Jan 11, 2015 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t read as much non-fiction as I sometimes think I should – and I’m certainly not one to force the issue, but Period Piece represents the kind of non-fiction book I like best. Childhood memoirs of the Victorian and Edwardian era are a lovely sub-genre that I have found to be endlessly readable. This lovely book borrowed from my friend Liz comes with lots of lovely illustrations by the author herself.

Gwen Raverat was a wood engraver, the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, who died three years
Aug 30, 2014 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in childhood, humour, late Victorian social history, biographies, Cambridge.
This was the third time I’ve read this fabulous book, and it gets better and better with each reading.

Gwen Raverat was Charles Darwin’s granddaughter, living an idyllic and rather crazy Victorian childhood in the bliss that is Cambridge, with a lot of her family around her.

She was an out and out tomboy, resenting all trappings of feminity – the clothes, the dancing classes, the chaperoning duties - and relishing instead all the wonderful opportunities for adventure provided by enthusiastic sibli
Period Piece offers a uniquely intimate glimpse into Cambridge life and society at the end of the 19th century. With Mrs. Raverat being Charles Darwin's granddaughter, the Darwin shadow rests over the entire book, but remains incorporeal because Darwin died before the author was even born.

Raverat made the excellent decision to organize her book topically rather than chronologically; this is made possible by her family's geographical immobility in the environs of Cambridge (her education as a te
Diane Barnes
May 10, 2012 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it
What a wonderful, charming, witty, beautiful memoir of growing up in a large, loving eccentric family ( the Darwin's) in England before WW1. Superbly written, it made me nostalgic for a childhood filled with the freedom to run free and use your imagination to amuse yourself. This memoir does not read in chronological order, but is instead divided into subjects, such as Uncles, Aunts, Clothing, Religion, Amusements, etc. I gave this book 4 stars because it was a joy to read.
Jul 04, 2016 Theresa rated it really liked it
This book was written by Charles Darwin's granddaughter, Gwen Raverat, in 1952, and was about her life growing up. It was refreshing in the sense that, even though set in the Victorian era, there was a distinct lack of religious mores unusual for the time. There were strong behavioral codes, some of them admirable, such as a tremendous emphasis on humility.

What I didn't know until I had finished the book is that Raverat was a well-known and respected artist. I was happy to learn that she led a f
Dec 13, 2010 Sylvester rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
This has been my Year of the Memoir - I don't know how many I've read, but this one must be the best yet. Gwen Raverat is witty and feisty, and her pen and ink illustrations are the icing on the cake. I liked that she organized her memoir by topic rather than keeping to chronology, too. Her wry description of Victorian society and it's strange standards is quite pointed and funny. I absolutely loved the chapter "Sport" in which she tells of all the games she and her siblings and cousins would ge ...more
Jun 27, 2011 Ana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
I picked up this book during a visit to Cambridge last year. You know how when you visit a bookshop in a new city, it always tends to have a section of 'local' works? Well, this was on that same said table and its' lavender cover (unlike the image shown) caught my eye. I shelved it when I got back home and didn't think much about it since. But then about a week ago, while shelving another book nearby, this one's binding caught my eye. I'd been on a streak of books on women, either written by the ...more
Val Robson
Feb 26, 2016 Val Robson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
I was given this book as a gift in 1983 and cannot understand why it has taken me this long to read it. It is the most charming and lovely read covering the childhood of Gwen Raverat from her birth in 1885 to the turn of the century.

Gwen is the grand-daughter of Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgwood. Her writing is a great piece of social history of those times. Each chapter covers a topic such as 'Ladies', 'Propriety', 'Clothes', 'Sport', Society'.

The book is beautifully, and often humourously, ill
Period Piece is a charming exercise in nostalgia, though I quickly found I was only up for small doses of Childhood Memories in any one sitting so it took me a rather long time to finish it. Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me how well some people remember their childhoods. Gwen Raverat's was particularly memorable (and happy), surrounded and supported by a vast assemblage of eccentric aunts, uncles, and cousins. Having spent a year in Cambridge back in the 80's, though, my favorite portions of ...more
Jeanne Ferris
Mar 15, 2015 Jeanne Ferris rated it it was amazing
Charles Darwin's granddaughter, the artist Gwen Raverat, wrote a delightful memoir of her childhood in Cambridge and of her relatives in the 1890s. Her affectionate and humorous portraits (in both words and line drawings) made me laugh out loud more than once. Here is an excerpt: "When Aunt Etty was quite old, she suddenly announced that she had never heard a nightingale sing, and must do so at once. But as the nightingale's turn did not come on till quite late, she would get ready for bed first ...more
Nicola Pierce
Sep 05, 2016 Nicola Pierce rated it it was amazing
I found this little gem in a second-hand bookshop and, on finishing it, wondered how in God's name I had lived forty-seven years in total ignorance of its existence. From time to time I worry that I'm not reading enough fiction but I can't help it, I absolutely love memoirs and auto/biographies.

And this is pure gorgeous. It's a sort of a female 'Cider with Rosie' (one of my all-time favourites) but without the poverty or absent father. Talk about the quintessential upper crust English grand lif
Ross Perlin
An elegiac but funny memoir of Cambridge in the late Victorian period, written by Darwin’s granddaughter many years afterwards. The book sheds brief glimmers of light on famous figures (Vaughan Williams, E.M. Forster, Darwin himself), but mostly details the lifestyle and foibles of a very well-to-do and connected family of the time—and Victorian girlhood. Also a great read for specific tidbits on old Cambridge (who knew how new punting is!).
Timons Esaias
Sep 25, 2016 Timons Esaias rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book came to my attention via Noel Perrin’s A Reader’s Delight, and I am thoroughly pleased that I followed his recommendation. I was, however, somewhat misled by that article. Gwen Raverat was a member of the famous Bloomsbury Group, but this book, though a memoir, is really about her childhood. She was a granddaughter of Charles Darwin, and the people in her family included her five famous uncles. She also lived in a famous complex of buildings in Cambridge, England; all of which are now ...more
Beth Bonini
Dec 11, 2010 Beth Bonini rated it it was amazing
I adored this memoir.
For years now, I've been visiting Cambridge and walking by the blue plaque that says "Gwen Raverat lived here." It was truly a delight to read this reminiscence of her Cambridge childhood, of late Victorian society, and of the collection of eccentrics that were her Darwin family.
She was a truly original person and her humorous, distinctive voice makes this memoir something really special.
Myra Kendrix
Aug 11, 2015 Myra Kendrix rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was literally my best friend during some of the darkest times of my life. I have read it a zillion times in the last 15 years. There is nothing earth-shatteringly amazing about it. It's just so funny and sentimental and lovely, and Gwen's fabulous drawings make this a one-of-a-kind memoir.
It has long been my dream to visit the places described in this book, especially her childhood home and Downe, where her grandfather, Charles Darwin, lived.
Thank you, Gwen, for enriching my life and
Sep 02, 2012 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely superb autobiography, until age 16, of C Darwin's granddaughter. Funny and heart- warming.
Jun 19, 2007 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is an amazing book, it will make you happy.
Sep 15, 2013 Trisha rated it it was amazing
Period Piece, Gwen Raverat
One of the many books that’s sat around on my bookshelf for years, this is a good example of why it’s a good idea to read what I’ve already accumulated instead of trying to keep up with newer titles. Written in 1952 when the author was 62, it’s an absolutely delightful memoir of Raverat’s Victorian childhood spent as the privileged child of a distinguished family of Cambridge scholars. It was interesting to discover that she was the grand-daughter of Charles Darwin who
Apr 10, 2013 D.Moore rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorites. Gwen Raverat, an independent thinker, artist, and the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, describes her childhood in turn-of-the-century Cambridge.

The memoir is organized by topic rather than chronologically, with chapters on "Ladies" ("they did not do things themselves, they told other people what to do and how to do it"), "Religion" ("The first religious experience that I can remember is getting under the nursery table to pray that the dancing mistress might be dead
Apr 09, 2015 Tweedledum rated it it was amazing
This little autobiography by the artist Gwen Raverat, who was a granddaughter of Charles Dickens is an absolute gem. Beautifully illustrated by Raverat lovingly recalls a time long vanished and Gwen tells incident s from family life with I sight and humour. Some of the relatives are wonderfully eccentric but recalled with kindness and gentleness.
May 09, 2015 JFN rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most charming and delightful books I've ever read. There's nothing else quite like it. If you're even remotely Anglophilic, this is a must read -- the joyful details of everyday life in Cambridge at the turn of the 19th into 20th century and stories about Darwin family personalities are not to be missed. Quirky personality traits, games played, clothes worn, family habits and traditions, Raverat's clear and colorful writing is transportive. Everyone in this book, who would oth ...more
Rosie Shephard
Apr 16, 2015 Rosie Shephard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really amazing true-story book about a woman (the granddaughter of Charles Darwin) growing up in Cambridge England during the Victorian era.

Gwen Darwin, later Gwen Raverat, talks about her family, society, fashion, social standards and religion from her childhood and teenage years. The writing style of this book is quite 'contemporary' and is quite full of humor and creativity!

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history and autobiographical novels.
Feb 23, 2014 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
A marvelous account of growing up in Victorian Cambridge by the granddaughter of Charles Darwin. Part memoir, part diary of growing up, it's a unique book depicting a way of life long gone, although there are many similarities to growing up in contemporary academic households.
May 20, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Marnie
Shelves: 2012
Gwen Raverat's 'Period Piece' is a unique and charming memoir of a Cambridge childhood in the late 1800's-early 1900's. As a grand-daughter of Charles Darwin she gives a beautiful insight into what was obviously an extremely talented family. Even disregarding this aspect, Raverat's account of the varying aspects of childhood in that time (from "Clothes" to "Ghosts and Horrors") are quite often laugh out loud amusing and always informative. I'm surprised that this modern classic isn't more well k ...more
Aug 18, 2013 Marion rated it it was amazing
Shelves: desert-island
My well-thumbed Faber edition of this book has been in my bookcases for over fifty years. It has a printed price of 9 shillings with a note to say that the 'cloth-bound' edition is available at 25 shillings!

As someone born and brought up in Cambridge, I love this book about the childhood of Charles Darwin's granddaughter in the same town. Each chapter can be read on its own, although all part of the interwoven memoirs, and the humour is charming and infectious. My edition has many little pen sk
Feb 17, 2015 Clarissa rated it really liked it
Memoirs of Darwin's granddaughter. A funny look at growing up in the Victorian era.

Feb 02, 2015 Deb rated it it was amazing
Growing up in the Darwin family - an unexpectedly hilarious life.
Kathleen Fowler
Nov 25, 2013 Kathleen Fowler rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anglophiles
Period Piece is an affectionate, and often hilarious, account of life in the large and exceedingly eccentric Darwin clan in turn-of-the-century Cambridge. Written in 1952, it paints a vivid portrait of the childhood and youth of one of Charles Darwin’s granddaughters, artist Gwen Raverat. The idiosyncrasies of the age (the turn of the last century), the social milieu (Cambridge University faculty and students), and her family make for fascinating reading. Raverat's illustrations are icing on the ...more
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