Belinda Rathbone is an American writer who married a Scottish laird and moved with him to his 400 year old estate in Scotland, known as the Guynd. This book is the story of their epic (and ultimately unsuccessful) battle to restore the house to some semblance of its former glory.
Rathbone’s husband had been avoiding the Guynd for years, spending his time mostly in London. His ambivalence about his legacy is clear from the outset, though with Belinda at his side he seems finally interested in trying to get the place going again. What a job! Apparently no one in the 400 year history of the Guynd ever threw anything away, and I really liked reading about Rathbone’s discoveries: a desk filled with engraved stationery from the 1930’s, linen rooms stacked with embroidered sheets and towels, outbuildings filled with old broken down farm equipment, ancient books that turned to dust when opened. But it turns out that Rathbone’s husband is cut from the same cloth as his ancesters, and Rathbone was unsuccessful at getting him to part with much of this rubbish. He is also extremely frugal and seems to have a bad case of ADD; everything was done as cheaply as possible, and projects began, then lingered for years unfinished.
The book is as much the story of their marriage as it is the story of the house. Because of course, she really married the house – her husband even proposed to her by offering her the house instead of his hand. And like the restoration, the marriage seems to have failed. But it’s still a well written and engaging story.
The New York Times has a good profile of Rathbone. It was this article that put the book on my radar in the first place.
(Book 24, 2008)