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Review originally published here tracked down a copy of this after a good bit of searching it was the author surname that caught my attention I find the lives of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood interesting in a rather morbid sort of way as I doubt that the name Holman Hunt is particularly common And indeed I was correct, Diana Holman Hunt was the granddaughter of the famous painter, but born three years after his death, arriving into the world in the bed that the Great Man died in With a father who is mysteriously absent for than the first half of the book and who proves himself utterly inadequate for the remainder and a mother who is never mentioned, Diana spends her childhood being ferried between the homes of her two contrasting grandmothers, an upbringing which she chronicles in this entertaining and deeply affectionate memoir.Holman Hunt s two grandmothers are known as Grandmother and Grand, with the former being Mrs Freeman, a distant relative of John Everett Millais, and then the latter being Edith Holman Hunt, fortunate enough to be widow to the Great Artist , to put it in her own words The Freemans live in a tightly run household in Sussex staffed by a full complement of servants and where Grandmother Freeman s word is gospel, Diana s days are governed by tasks and nothing less than perfection is acceptable By contrast, Grand wafts around her frowsty dark home with only my good Helen to serve her and Helen is truly good for very little, producing inedible meals, refusing to tidy and generally remaining monosyllabic Grand s Kensington home is of a shrine to her late husband than a house the tea set is labelled with the names of the great and the good who drank from the cups although Diana objects that they can t have ever all sat down together Diana returns from visits to Grand with unwashed hair and wrinkled clothes and a general state of hungriness Grandmother Freeman is always appalled and the passive aggressive correspondence between the two has a humour of its own.Despite Diana s date of birth being 1913, this memoir has a distinct Victorian theme I read it with the voice of Lady Bracknell in my head Diana is called upon to utter in the drawing room, and then instructed at another point to enter a room with the word prune as it will make her mouth appear a better shape The child Diana gallops into the room, dressed in her classical dress as a Greek goddess, shouting the word There is also the unfortunate tennis incident that leave the child with a black eye My Grandmothers and I is a nostalgic piece, reflecting back to childhood when things were simpler but also for these grandmothers themselves Grand s home is a mausoleum, full of mementos of her marriage and her husband s fame and her conversation full of those who are dead Having read The Model Wife, it was interesting to hear the Millais Ruskin scandal from a contemporary perspective Diana is ordered to forever defend the reputations of Euphemia and Uncle Johnny , her grandfather s close friend There is a humour to how Diana parrots her grandmother s words, but the grief and loss behind them is undeniable.There is a deeper shame though behind Grand s constant chatter Edith Holman Hunt was second wife to the painter, with her sister being his first wife Edith and Holman Hunt had to go abroad to Europe in order to marry due to laws against marrying the sister of one s deceased wife Florence Holman Hunt died in childbirth, her marriage to the painter was short, but there is such tender tragedy to the aging Grand s muted panic that in all these years of her widowhood, her sister has been reunited with Holman Hunt in Heaven The author s love and warmth for all of her grandparents is obvious while her cousin breaks her shell collection and is a spoilsport, her father does little for her other than posting her a leper skin for her fifth birthday, it is the grandmothers who are clearest positive force in her life.There is the muffled panic in the background of the Freeman household that Grandfather has lost his sight and is almost blind the worst happens later when he has the dreaded fall, plunging his wife into the despair that has hovered over her for so much of the book Grandmother abstractedly tells Diana that from now on she cannot live with them, that it is fortunate enough that she will be married in a few years , which to the adolescent Diana is clearly alarming She is assured that thanks to Grand, Diana will be an heiress but instead she is sent to an inferior boarding school before being rescued by her father several years later Yet, with his reappearance, Diana s father is finally revealed as the worthless individual that he truly is, leaving her abandoned, almost penniless and having to take a low paid job in order to support herself, all the while living in the squalor of Grand s decaying home Grand and her father are reluctant to allow her to visit her now widowed Grandfather and when her father finally vanishes for good, Diana finds herself unwanted by her other relatives who make their excuses to abdicate responsibility The loveliest moment of the book comes however when Grand unexpectedly dies hit by a bus and she received a note from her Grandfather, incapacitated by his earlier accident but to her obvious relief, able to offer her a place to go It is tempting to wonder with a memoir such as this to what extent the author is holding back Certainly she never explains her mother s whereabouts The characters are drawn so large, larger than life, that one wonders about the accuracy but again, My Grandmothers and I captures the way in which a child perceives the adult world The older Diana in the second part of the book has a different perspective she can see Grand as a far diminished figure, some vulnerable who needs to be protected and these figures who were once so omnipotent particularly Fowler and the other servants from the Freeman household who were so omnipotent in the eyes of her younger self they too become fallible and faded My Grandmothers and I has of the feel of a novel than a memoir though she most certainly was not starved for material and indeed in having sung her family s song in so beautiful a way, she is carrying them forwarrd to another generation, just as her Grand would have wanted. @Download Book ó My Grandmothers and I à PRE ISBNText Below Extracted And Largely Copied From Accessed April BORN October In The Bed In Which The Pre Raphaelite Painter William Holman Hunt Had Died Three Years Before, The Writer Diana Holman Hunt Was To Inherit Her Grandfather S Exceptional Memory And Gifts As A Raconteur These Were Cultivated By An Extraordinary Upbringing, Which Holman Hunt Brilliantly Described In Her First Book, My Grandmothers And I An Unwanted Only Child Whose Father, Hilary, Was Employed In The Public Works Department In Burma Holman Hunt Was Shunted Between Her Wealthy Freeman Grandparents In Sussex, And A Life Of Privation With The Eccentric Edith Holman Hunt Grand In Kensington Brave And Resourceful, She Soon Learnt That Adult Affection Was Conditional, In The Country, On Her Ability To Entertain She Was Constantly Exhorted To Utter And, In Melbury Road, Kensington, To Take In And Cherish Anecdotes Relating To The Victorian Art World And Her Grandfather In Particular Holman Hunt Fulfilled Both Roles, But Ultimately Tired Of Grand S Canonisation Of The Great Painter Diana Holman Hunt S Late Flowering Gifts As A Writer Owed Nothing To Formal Education From The Ages Of Eight To She Was Sent To An Inferior Boarding School In Eastbourne, And Continued Her Studies In Florence, Germany, And At Art School In Paris Grand Was Killed By An Omnibus In , Unexpectedly Leaving Nothing In Her Will To Diana Her First Book My Grandmothers And I Became A Best Seller The Year After Her Second Husband S Death From Cancer In She Was Working On Her Autobiography When She Died On Th August Diana Holman Hunt s childhood was spent between two vastly different households Her maternal grandparents lived on a large country estate where she was expected to do chores, and read to her blind grandfather Visitors provided diversion, as in a Jane Austen novel She had a fond relationship with her grandmother s maid Fowler and made friends with a local fisherman who lived in a hut on the beach.Then for a while she d go to stay with her father s mother in London That grandmother was the widow of Pre Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt Eccentric isn t quite the word to describe her She lived with a servant in a house crowded with priceless artwork, surrounded by props from her late husband s paintings, and a lot of hoarded junk She was scornful about bodily comforts like fresh food and comfortable beds Her aim in life was to keep William s memory alive, and she took Diana to the Tate to see his paintings commenting on other painter s works Turner, that nasty little man She quizzed Diana on her knowledge of all Holman Hunt family stories, like the time William boiled a horse s bones in the yard so he could be sure of their anatomy.Much of Diana s childhood sounds pretty awful Her father was off in Burma and wasn t much of a dad when he returned we never find out what happened to her mother, nor if Diana thinks of her But she writes from a child s point of view, accepting whatever the adults dish out and finding amusement in odd ways, so it doesn t feel sad It s very entertaining and funny.Apparently this book was a best seller in England I enjoyed it so much I bought the biography she wrote of her grandfather and his wives and lovers, from 1969 The grandmother of this book was his second wife, his deceased wife s sister, and their marriage was illegal at the time. My Grandmother and I is a charming memoir of Diana Holman Hunt s childhood, and her relationship with two radically different grandmothers Before starting it, I was sure I would be madly in love with Grand the wild and eccentric artist s widow, draped in jewels of the Orient while she luxuriated in her wealth of oil paintings however I ended up preferring the very proper Grandmother Freeman, who, although spoilt and domineering, seemed to at least provide for Diana s well being The author wrote that she tried to depict her grandparents as they appeared to her as a child , and I absolutely agree that she brilliantly and hilariously succeeded This memoir, at its core, is a sad story, though its vivid dialogue creates a romantic haze of humour It gives us a glimpse of a cunning, canny child, hungry for the security of love and a sense of belonging There are tender moments when Grand gives up her bed for Diana, after an icy letter from Grandmother a hump in a girl is most unfortunate , but also cruel moments, such as the drowning of kittens, during which Diana s distress was carelessly ignored Not withstanding the failings of both grandmothers, I was still disturbed by Diana s lack of emotion relating to Grandmother s death and Grand s omnibus accident even for a self absorbed fifteen year old it touched a nerve, and I came away feeling it was all merely simple affection borne out of duty On a frivolous note, the book I have from Slightly Foxed Paperbacks a gift from bestie Jia yi, who always sources the best is a delightful purple and cream edition which bumps this up from 2.5 to 3 stars An account of an extraordinary Edwardian upbringing As so often with memoirs, the early years are the best but it s a riveting tale of past times. It s a little difficult to get into at first but gradually the jumping about style and the larger than life characters come to life It s an amazing book , funny and sad and marking a massive change in people s lives Well worth checking out Recently re read this book which is one of my all time favorites Fascinating story and the differences of the styles of Diana s two grandmothers in raising her are incredible I loved this book. An extraordinarily entertaining and thought provoking read The image of irresponsible parenthood one builds up in one s mind of Diana s absent father Hilary in the first part of this book is amply justified through the evidence of his presence in the second part One can but speculate as to the exact nature of his employment in the Public Works department in Burma Meanwhile, Diana lives with, and is brought up by her grandparents At this point one feels that the obvious caveat should be added This book is a memoir of the author s As such, only the author d 1993 knew how she selected and presented her materialDiana s wealthy maternal grandparents the Freemans , in Surry, were closely related to Sir John Everett Millais, one of the founders of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood Grandmother Freeman is a perfectionist Save for their acts of competitive grand parenting , the Freeman grandparents appear to be relatively normal Strangely, Diana s mother dead divorced insane unmarried is never mentioned.At that time, in common with children of her class, Diana spends time with the Freeman servants than with her Freeman grandparents As an only child, she is close to her cousin Priscilla, who is of a similar age In Chapter 5, Diana s uncomprehending grandfather speaks firmly with her, after Mr Duncan the vicar catches Diana and Priscilla rolling about the graves giggling in an unseemly, indeed he said in an hysterical, manner Later on the same afternoon he Mr Duncan heard noises in the church He opened the door quietly and an extraordinary spectacle met his eyes you two children wearing peculiar confections on your heads, prostrating yourselves at the altar, in front of a dead rabbit His first reaction was one of horror at what seemed like desecration of the church you should know it is a consecrated building On closer inspection he was gradually convinced that you were both praying devoutly He confessed himself strangely moved at the sight of two kneeling children, their eyes closed and their hands clasped in earnest supplication He quietly withdrew It appears you left the rabbit on the altar and he gave it to some deserving person in the parish He declares that you and Priscilla have returned several times to repeat this extraordinary performance Edith Holman Hunt Diana s paternal grandmother, known as Grand is the real star of the book Living in Kensington, London, she was clearly an extraordinary character a woman very rich in material possessions, but one who rarely shows any understanding that such wealth could, let alone should, be spent She does not maintain a number of staff commensurate with the quality and grandeur of her house However when Diana is identified as having acute appendicitis, Grand doesn t think twice about paying the bill for the risky but necessary private operation Grand identifies herself, and her purpose in life to the nth degree, by her marriage abroad, in 1875 to William Holman Hunt OM, one of the leading artists of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood She consequently moved in high circles of artistic society William Makepeace Thackeray and his children played round this tree is but one example of many throwaway remarks Now in widowhood, her social circle appears to remain well stocked.Edith was the sister of Holman Hunt s first wife, Fanny, who died in childbirth in Italy Such marriages, contrary to Church Law, were not legalised in England until 1907 the deceased wife s sister Act Diana describes the precarious balance of Edith state of mind, resting between the triumphalism of her success in marrying the man she loved and desired, was yet racked with jealously Holman s death in 1910 parted her from him, but, alas, also reunited him with his first wife, in heaven One of my favourite passages in the book much as I loved it all occurs in Chapter 4, when Grand takes Diana to St Paul s cathedral London , for Sunday morning service After the service ends, Grand walks over to Holman s second painting of The Light of The World 1900 , and, embarrassingly for Diana, keenly tells the gathering crowd of tourists all about that very famous masterpiece, I have the honour to be the artist s widow There could be no stopping her now After this, the verger unlocks the door to the crypt, so that Grand may pray devoutly at her late husband s grave and ponder in a tearful but maudlin manner the reunification of their mortal remains As an observer, Diana s own thoughts are somewhat frivolous.This book may possibly challenge and bemuse a reader who is unfamiliar with the British class system of the first half of the twentieth century However I would urge such a reader not to give up too easily and perhaps to find books to read round the wider subject of the mid to late Victorian, and Edwardian periods i.e those years which shaped the characters of Diana s grandparents.I would also urge potential readers to seek out an edition of the book, such as the 1960 edition, which contains five photographic plates The first plate, opposite the title page is titled Mr and Mrs Holman Hunt leaving Windsor Castle after a Royal Garden Party It is an extraordinary image After seeing that, nothing contained in Diana Holman Hunt s book should come as a surprise to the reader. It takes enormous wit to create a comic masterpiece from a train wreck of a childhood, but Diana Holman Hunt accomplishes just this Abandoned by her widowed father to shuttle between her two diametrically opposed grandmothers, she grew up in alternating luxury Grandmother Freeman and Miss Havisham like ruins Grandmother Edith, the painter William Holman Hunt s widow Both loved her, competed over her, but neither one had a clue about a child s needs, caught up as they were in their own selfish bubbles Their granddaughter describes them with acute humor and affection If you enjoyed Love in a Cold Climate, this will amuse you.