Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine--Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary” as Want to Read:
The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine--Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine--Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  145 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
In the village of Wreay, near Carlisle, stands the strangest and most magical Victorian church in England. This vivid, original book tells the story of its builder, Sarah Losh, strong-willed, passionate, and unusual in every way.

Sarah Losh is a lost Romantic genius—an antiquarian, an architect, and a visionary. Born into an old Cumbrian family, heiress to an industrial for
ebook, 352 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published September 1st 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Pinecone, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Pinecone

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Fiona Hodgkin
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fiona by: The New Yorker 'Briefly Noted' Review
Shelves: non-fiction
I bought The Pinecone at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore because The New Yorker, in a 'Briefly Noted' review (Feb. 25 issue) called it 'mesmerizing.' It's about Sarah Losh, a wealthy women who lived in the north of England in the late 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. She designed several buildings, and - the best of all worlds for an architect - she had enough money to pay for building her own designs. A well written, carefully researched biography? Yes. Interesting in places? ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘She must have been a really great genius, and should be better known.’ (Dante Gabriel Rossetti, letter to his mother, 1869)

On Candlemas Eve in 1836, the Twelve Men of Wreay met to consider Miss Losh’s request to make improvements on the road through Wreay where it passes the church and burial ground, to expand the churchyard. Miss Sarah Losh, then aged 50 and unmarried, was the largest landowner and wealthiest resident in her part of Cumbria, near Carlisle and close to the border with Scotland.
This is a First Reads for me - I won this as a Giveaway.

I was intrigued about this woman - another Sarah living a life in another time, building a very unusual church before women could officially be architects.

The idea was more romantic than the actual writing down of it. The illustrations in the book were very helpful, but larger pictures would have helped me visualize this church better. I struggled with really seeing this church in my mind with all of the odd and unique designs.

This book was
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really can't remember where I first learned about The Pinecone, but I am so very glad that I did, that I met a remarkable woman who lived in Georgian England and created an extraordinary church.
"The gargoyles are turtles and dragons. Instead of saints and prophets, the window embrasures are carved with ammonites and coral, poppies and wheat, caterpillar and butterfly. Inside, the light is filtered through strange stained glass, bright leaves on black backgrounds, kaleidoscopic mosaics, alabast
Feb 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Losh, a wealthy, bright and self-taught architect of 1830's England, sounds amazing. I'd like to know more about her. Even more so after finishing this book that told me so little about her. The book itself is painfully boring. It includes too much detail about general history of the time and not much about the heroine herself. Her family is more the focus of the story with their fortunes made in the Industrial Age and their progressive politics. But there is nothing personal about Sarah, ...more
Amy Foster
Not a very interesting read I'm afraid. I would hate it if my biography was filled with my parents friends. Ms. Uglow did not make this woman truly come to life as so many great biographers can.
Always Pink
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oh-so-british
I would call this a labour of love. Uglow was fascinated by Sarah Losh's chapel in Wreay (and rightly so!) and tried to solve the riddle that this untimely work by an architectural amateur poses to posterity. As sadly not much Sarah herself has written has survived, Uglow can only amass circumstantial proof of people and ideas that may well have influenced her via family, friends and publications. Much to her credit Uglow abstains from any assumptions or flights of fancy and stays firmly with fa ...more
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book is subtitled: 'The story of Sarah Losh, forgotten Romantic heroine – antiquarian, architect and visionary.' This captures only part of the story.

She was a remarkable woman from a pretty remarkable family of the Whig tradition. Her uncle James, with whom she had much in common, was a life long Unitarian and she shared his social conscience and many of his interests. The story is therefore partly about this family and its wide circle. It is also about the growth of the industrial north in
Morrine Depolo
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine--Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary by Jenny Uglow tells of her life but left me hungry for more visuals, so I went looking and researched images of the little St. Mary’s Church in Wreay that Sarah Losh designed and built.

It is breathtaking and I’m still affected by her awesome, creative genius. Sarah was a brilliant linguist and world traveled; she was strong, gracious, generous and sensitive to those who had less than she. S
noted for her church and other structures in northern england, near carlise, sarah losh synthesized the huge changes in knowledge taking place (especially in england and scotland) in the early 1800's, ideas about geology, fossils, industrialization and the end of hand craft,travel, communication, art and antiquities, and changing roles for women. her st mary church is a romanesque or 'lombard" style, much against the grain of oxbridge egg head thought of gothic being the "true" enlish medium for ...more
Don O'goodreader
Sarah Losh, contemporary of Jane Austen, was a victim of a crime against women beyond the systematic lack of economic freedom and opportunity so well presented in Jane Austen's novels. This crime was so pervasive, and so long a part of the culture that I doubt if even Jane Austen realized it.

Reading between the lines in the biography of Sarah Losh (The Pinecone by Jenny Uglow), one can not miss the reality that women were conditioned to perform historical suicide. In Jane Austen's case, even tho
I received this as a Good Reads giveaway, and though I found many things of interest in this book, I was surprised at how little Sarah Losh appears in her own story. It's really more of a capsule history of Carlisle and the village of Wreay during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The author assumes that the reader has more than a passing acquaintance with British history, politics and social mores of the period, so for an American reader this can be somewhat bewildering. As for Miss Losh h ...more
Jane G Meyer
I've been wading through this book one page at a time for weeks. It is a wonderful sleeping pill.

Really, for folks who live in and around Carlisle, and Wreay, and Newcastle, this would be a wonderful book of local history and lore. But for someone planted on the beaches of California, hoping to be inspired by the life, thinking, art and daring of Sarah Losh, the book falls short. I was mired in backstory, family histories and details that didn't interest me. I wanted a deeper look into her own d
Pretty boring. I found myself skimming over so much material that really had nothing to do with her life. Pretty technical stuff about other people that got in the way of finding out who she was and what made her tick. I was disappointed.
Susan Beecher
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. I want to read all of her biographies. I loved her book about Thomas Bewick the engraver.
Gordon Ehler
Picked this up at a library sale. Lots of detail on the life of Sarah Losh, probably too much for a reader like me. I found many of the details interesting and enlightening, but was distracted by others. There are many fascinating aspects of life in northern England detailed in the book.
Interesting micro-history. I wish we knew more about Sarah Losh herself, but it was interesting reading about her family and community.
Kristy Bryson
Disclaimer: I did receive this book free through the Goodreads giveaways program. I promise my review is honest and not biased by intimacy with the author or publisher.

Oh, I would give you five stars if you'd only given me more Sarah...this books is a tantalizing tease. But I know the author is not to blame when a wealth of the subject's personal journals actually vanished and her personal writings were destroyed by her own hand. I didn't know Sarah Losh from anyone until I was intrigued by the
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A highly interesting and informative book on Sarah Losh and her family. Although I don't consider myself a religious person, however, her creation of the church in Wreay is exactly my idea of how some aspects of the Christian faith should focus itself. The focus of life and renewal, not the aspect of the death and suffering of Jesus for the people of faith. Indeed Sarah combined in the church not just of the Christian faith but of other ancient faiths from other countries. Sarah Losh was astonis ...more
I won this books through a Goodreads Giveaway, which does not impact my review.

When I read a biography about a woman I tend to suspect that I will also be reading about her family, specifically her male relatives, because of the fact that more often than we want, women's lives were recorded in relation to the men the lives. If a historian encounters letters, or even better a diary, written by their female subject they are lucky. Otherwise they have to sift through countless records looking for t
Ralph Britton
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a problem writing a biography of Sarah Losh. She wrote copiously but very little has survived. She is remembered by her building, the remarkable Church at Wreay in the Lake District. In a sense the church and its monuments, all designed and sometimes actually made by Sarah herself are her memorial, and perhaps only those who have seen them will want to read the book. Like everyone else who visits I was taken by surprise and enraptured by the tiny Church designed in such an original styl ...more
This one of those quirky little books that I put in my "to read" queue, wondering whether I would actually ever get around to reading it. While it sounded interesting from the review I read, I thought it had the potential to be a slog. But I really did get a lot out of it.

Sarah Losh didn't leave behind much in the way of documentation, so this "story of Sarah Losh" is an attempt to figure out this enigmatic woman by looking at her works and accomplishments, and those of her large family. Sarah a
When the credits rolled up the screen at the end of the movie "Miss Potter", I was surprised and pleased to see Jenny Uglow's name scroll by as a historical researcher for the movie. I enjoy that movie very much. I enjoy the depth, the attention to detail, the accuracy, humanity, and love of creativity that carried the movie along.
The same experience has been mine again as I read Uglow's book The Pinecone. This book has almost too much detail on some pages and I feel a little lost, almost as if
Nancy Groves
You might call this a group biography. The main character is Sarah Losh (1786-1853), a well educated, wealthy woman from Northern England who designed and help build a most unusual church (still standing, if somewhat changed) on her family's property. Sarah's life is told along with what sometimes feels like a bit too much detail about her siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, acquaintances, and notable figures of the time (Wordsworth, for example). WE also learn about life on the estate ...more
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although many of Sarah Losh's letters and journals are either lost or destroyed, Jenny Uglow builds up a vivid picture of this intelligent and creative woman from an examination of her interesting extended family, the local and national events of the time and the prevailing artistic, scientific and architectural preoccupations of her generation. Most of all, however, it is through her architecture and in particular the highly individual church at Wreay, that one comes closest to understanding he ...more
Sarah Losh, the subject of this book, is hardly known outside the village of Wreay near Carlisle where she resided but her impact on her locality was significant. Her family fortune was made on the land and through industrial ventures. As heiress to this fortune, and because she never married, she was able to exert considerably more local power and influence than most women of her day. She was a significant benefactor to numerous deserving causes, and her contribution was more than just financia ...more
Jo-Ann Murphy
I received this book through the Goodreads giveaways. From the title I was thrilled to receive it. However, the title is deceiving.

It should be called a Losh family history. The first half of the book is about Sarah's uncle and general history of the time. I understand that surroundings influence a person but while the history was imparted it was not tied to the influence it had on Sarah.

I would read for pages and pages and want to know where Sarah was, then there would be one sentence to the e
C.B. Burdette
Before reviewing, I'd like to state that I got the book from a GoodReads giveaway and would like to thank the publisher for the copy.

Now to the review....

The best way I can sum this book up is this: It's a beautifully written text book.

I know that may seem silly, but it's quite informative and the writer has written some beautiful sentences to enlighten the audience on Sarah. That being said, I didn't ever truly feel like I new who she was. It gave great detail about the history, her family hist
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Therese by: book club selection

I never would have read this book had it not been chosen by my book club, and even though there are many books I would never have read otherwise, this is one that I really didn't get much out of, and that is putting it mildly.

Sarah Losh was born in Regency England to a well-to-do family, the daughter of John and Isabella Losh, and sister to Katharine. She is intelligent, self taught, and although I have just read a book about her, I don't really feel like I know her at all.

Much of this boo
Karen E. Garcia
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I won a free copy of this book in a goodreads contest. Sarah Losh, who was basically in a rich family, have created wondrous buildings including a church. Much about her is a mystery since all her journals, drawings, and any evidence about her was destroyed. All that is left of her are the buildings she created. Despite the lack of personal information, Jenny Uglow used Sarah's birth place, family, and friends to better paint a picture of who Losh was as a person. In the end, Sarah Losh is still ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • John Aubrey: My Own Life
  • Raffles and the Golden Opportunity
  • Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150--1750
  • The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making
  • Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives Of The Pre Raphaelites
  • Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
  • Journals and Letters
  • A Coffin for King Charles: The Trial and Execution of Charles I
  • The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England
  • To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface
  • The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian London
  • Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England
  • Gladstone: A Biography
  • Mrs. Jordan's Profession: The Actress and the Prince
  • Fanny Burney: A Biography
  • Charles Dickens
  • Gabriele D'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War
  • La Folie Baudelaire
Jennifer Sheila Uglow OBE (née Crowther, born 1947) is a British biographer, critic and publisher. The editorial director of Chatto & Windus, she has written critically acclaimed biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell, William Hogarth, Thomas Bewick and the Lunar Society, among others, and has also compiled a women's biographical dictionary.
More about Jenny Uglow...