A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle
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A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle

3.13 of 5 stars 3.13  ·  rating details  ·  700 ratings  ·  158 reviews
"A Charmed Life" tells the story of Liza Campbell, the last child to be born at the impressive and renowned Cawdor Castle, the same locale featured in Shakespeare's "Macbeth." It was at the historical ancestral home that Liza's seemingly idyllic fairytale childhood began to resemble a nightmare.
Increasingly overwhelmed by his enormous responsibilities, Liza's father Hugh,...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published November 25th 2008 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2006)
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This is a gem of a book! Liza Campbell has written a beautifully composed book of her growing up in Scotland's Cawdor castle (the setting for Macbeth) and the the downward spiral of her father the 25th Thane. This memoir is several years removed from the year of her father's death which lends a mature aspect to her writing. I usually don't read much memoir because sometimes it seems too rushed or lacking in retrospection. Not in this though. The father and his wide appetites for alcohol, women,...more
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Don't judge a book by its cover (or title). Extremely well written, i laughed out loud, i was taken by how honest and earnest she wrote about her unconventional upbringing - and despite that related to her embarrassing tales of growing up & having parents. Plus the Scottish history is very interesting (inspired me to read up on my heritage). It's one of those books you can't put down even though you don't want it to end. I hate/love those books!
Part swinging sixties memoir, part family analysis, part literature...but how could you not want to read about living in the Thane's digs?
Melody Scott
At first, I admit, I found myself thinking, "What do I care about the life of this privileged young Scottish girl?"

She goes to private school, lives in a fine home, her grandfather is Thane of Cawdor (being a theatre freak, this was the most interesting part to me and why I picked up the book), and her family vacations at Cawdor Castle, MacBeth's home.

Of course, her father is a drunken philanderer who sleeps with all her nannies and anyone else he can lure, and her mother is a long-suffering, up...more
We grew up with the same parents in the same castle, but in many ways we each had a moat around us. Sometimes when visitors came they would say, “You are such lucky children; it’s a fairytale life you live.” And I knew they were right, it was a fairytale upbringing. But fairy tales are dark and I had no way of telling either a stranger or a friend what was going on; the abnormal became ordinary.

—Liza Campbell, A Charmed Life

Liza Campbell was the last child born at Cawdor Castle. Her father, Hugh...more
Mar 10, 2008 Tanja rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who also wondered what it would be like to grow up in Macbeth's shadow.
Shelves: memoir
Oh where to begin. The premise of the book sounded wonderful, I just did not like the execution. I felt as if the various persons in the book did not really come to life, and never really fully vested. I was a bit bored reading the book, which is a shame given that the story of the eccentric (to put it mildly) 25th Thane of Cawdor could make for a fascinating and interesting read. The author states in the beginning that she wrote the book to give her father the comeuppance that he never received...more
Juliet Wilson
This is probably one of the most sensational biographies that I've read it a long time, and the only thing I can closely compare it with would be Jeannette WallsThe Glass Castle, but really only in terms of subject matter.

Liza is unapologetic about her history in this book; she is the second daughter of the 25th Thane of Cawdor, her family having inherited the title in 1295, and her father was an alcoholic-cocaine addicted-borderline schizophrenic. She also has the distinction of being the last...more
The author of this book wants you to know right off the bat that MacBeth was slandered. He was actually a fair and beloved king. Unfortunately, he appears to have been the exception rather than the rule in a family with plenty of murderous insanity to go around culminating in her childhood spent with a father who was unfit to use one of the kindest words possible.

Campbell would make an excellent dinner party guest. She's full of witty asides. On the subject of her family's castle's longevity:
Again I'm kind of torn between a three and a four but went with the four because I really did enjoy reading this. It really gave a lot of insight into what it's like to be a girl growing up in a family that follows male primogeniture who is older than the heir. It definitely shows that the arbitrariness of that kind of system can lead to a family's ruin. And Campbell also shows that growing up in such a family can really lead one to be a bit ignorant of the social norms of the dominant culture.

I loved Cawdor castle when I visited it in 2000 and have often thought I would like to return. What was it that I liked? To me it felt welcoming and homey. Yes, it was a lived in castle but after reading this book and soap opera that was life in Cawdor castle I wonder how I could have had that feeling. A Charmed Life is, to quote a reviewer, a "unique non-fiction story written by the last child to be born in Cawdor Castle in Scotland. The author does a supurb job of weaving Scottish history and...more
Suzanne Skelly
A unique non-fiction story written by the last child to be born in Cawdor Castle in Scotland. The author does a supurb job of weaving Scottish history and the historic properties of land ownership/inheritance with the modern world. A true story of one of Scotland's more important families historically as it move thru time- not ever learning how to work for a living in the bigger world, but learning of the responsibilites and burdebs of maintaining massive estates with no learned skill sets to do...more
Nov 25, 2007 Golightly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historically saavy readers & those with patience
I'm still reading this book--I'm enjoying it but it's a bit flowery & could use a stricter editor in bits...she's overly sentimental in paragraphs that I'd have cut out of the novel all together. I've found I can become quite bored & distracted with the over-done depictions & descriptions--she goes too far in some passages with imagery & details (hence "flowery") & you learn all-to-quickly whom the author intends for you to love & despise..(this is the main problem, in my...more
I was drawn to this book because of the Shakespeare connection, and while the bits of history about the Thanes of Cawdor were quite interesting, they were drowned out by the author's sob-story / parental anger issues. In fact, it became so wearisome that I stopped reading after pg 140 (of 320). I don't recommend this one.
Harriet Evans
I love a book where you absolutely don't know what's coming next. This is so much more than aristo memoir. It's so moving tragic sharp compelling utterly crazy. Am loving it.
Very well written. The author has a great sense of humor dis spite the harsh realities of her upbring. The details she uses draw a very clear picture for the reader.
Hester (putsomestankonit)
A wonderfully written book where the author pulls no punches and exposes her family's dark secrets and pain.
The only thing that kept me going was the author's sense of humor which was wonderful, typically English, dry wit. The way she tells her story, while at times amusing, is very disjointed. She often digresses into stories about her family crest and history that at times, seem tedious. The book focuses on her relationship with her verbally and physically abusive, alcoholic, drug-addicted father who happened to be a British Thane who inherited a ton of property and extreme wealth. He is not so fasc...more
I noticed this book a year or so back, and because of my fascination with Scotland in general (thanks to my father's background) and Macbeth in particular (my favorite Shakespeare play), I mentioned to a friend I'd like to read it eventually. That friend's mother read it, and then passed it on to me. I'm glad she did, and I'm glad I made it part of my TBR Challenge list for 2011.

Liza Campbell's memoir of growing up in, and associated with, Cawdor Castle in Scotland is not an easy read, although...more
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My wife gave me this book knowing that it would be of particular interest to me for two reasons. The most obvious to most people would be my affinity for Shakespeare and the fact that this memoir follows the story and history of family members in Cawdor castle...the same location/family that figures in Shakespeare's Macbeth. That in itself makes this interesting enough. Even more fun to me is that (supposedly), I'm a distant descendant of an early Thane of Cawdor...or at least a member of the Ca...more
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I can't help but compare this to Dead End Gene Pool, and this is infinitely better. One can't help but notice the similarities between the peculiar downfall of such powerful and affluent families written by a particularly cognizant and observant daughter. DEGP is more laugh out loud funny, but also significantly more disingenuous than Liza Campbell's work here. I fell in love with the characters in Liza's story and found it somehow more enchanting and relatable. Her stories involving her father,...more
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Feb 25, 2008 Stephanie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody with a wicked stepmother
Shelves: dreamlives
I so wanted to love this book, which is a woman's account of living in a Scottish castle throughout the late 60s and early 70s. Although it is well written from a technical standpoint, it failed to capture me on a storytelling level. Yes, it's a memoir, but the characters felt two dimensional and moved around the book like so many paper dolls.

A Charmed Life is ironically titled, since the author's father, the 26th Thane of Cawdor, was a raging alcoholic, womanizer, drug abuser, and wife beater....more
Barbara Mader
Maybe two-and-a-half stars. Liza and her four siblings are the children of Hugh, who becomes the twenty-fifth Thane of Cawdor. Hugh is bright, good-looking, and, with the death of his father, inherits hugely--an immense amount of money, three stately homes, and 100,000 acres of land (with various industries operating on them). Alas, Dad drinks, sleeps with the ever-coming-and-going nannies (over 30 nannies are employed over the years), wrecks numerous Jaguars, becomes addicted to drugs, and begi...more
Larry Hostetler
Another book to which I would give a 3.5 star rating. Well-written, easy to read, a good book. The comfortable writing style and humor help, as do the stories both modern and historical. But as the writer points out, 'you must find your sentence' to determine the message of the missive. This book provides some insight into the life (both good and bad) of the landed class, and includes interesting history into the Campbell clan. But the "sentence" chosen by Liza was trying to understand and expla...more
Laughed out loud more than once reading this book, even though it relates a basically appalling story of addiction smashing up a family and an ancient inheritance lineage stretching back to the 13th century. The author has that wonderfully dry witty-Brit (in the larger sense: she's Welsh/Scots) way with her prose that I tend to find endlessly entertaining. And that also turns out to be a good way to relate a tale like this one without bogging down in the maudlin. The book is stuffed with enough...more
Mrs W
Liza Campbell, daughter of the 25th Thane of Cawdor, was the last child born in Cawdor Castle, the locale of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. What seems like an idyllic childhood drifts into a nightmare as her father destroys the family’s legacy, built over centuries, through his excessive, obsessive lifestyle of extramarital affairs, alcoholism, impulse spending, and domestic violence. Against this backdrop, Campbell explores her childhood and how the past, present, and future collide.
• Extreme swearing,...more
According to the prologue, when Liza Campbell sent an early excerpt of her book to a writer friend of hers, he told her she "must work out her angle." He told her she needed to make a clear decision on what the book was about, and be able to boil this idea down to a single sentence.

Solid advice.

Unfortunately, Campbell chose not to take it. While she did settle on a sentence ("Papa was odd, but I got even"), the reader quickly finds out that this sentence really has nothing to do with the theme....more
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