The Music Room, By William Fiennes

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The Independent Culture

True life has a knack of splicing literary genres in a way that would baffle coventionally-minded publishers. William Fiennes's tender, affecting portrayal of his upbringing yokes together, as his past did, disparate emotions and experiences.

Luscious scenes from his childhood in a moated, magical Oxfordshire castle seduce us intermittently into the country-house memoir at its most beguiling. Great Hall, Long Gallery and their attendant spirits raise picturesque spectres of a long and noble family history.

With the illness of William's elder brother Richard, different and much angrier ghosts descend. Richard's devastating attacks of epilepsy blight this idyll. Yet the family (and, in this book, his brother) never stop the hard work of coping, understanding, loving. Suffering and terror coexist with beauty and serenity in a book whose gifts of tact and timing turn its discords into harmony.