There is an intelligence and nobility in the clipped, unselfish attitude on show in this book that reveals something of a way of being that is fast fading from the collective memory. It is, in many ways, a gift of a book.
Charley’s Woods is tart, arch and crisp. It recalls a strange, lonely childhood with brisk frivolity and a ruthless perception of other people’s oddities, vices and humours… Charley’s Woods is rueful rather than boastful. It abounds in lordly and theatrical anecdotes, waspishness and mordant intelligence. … a tender-hearted, prickly, resilient and life-enhancing memoir.
An engrossing account of unconventional adoptive parents and an equally unconventional upbringing. Extraordinary and touching by turns, it draws a vivid picture of upper class life, especially in the 50s and 60s, and boasts a cast of characters that includes royalty, the nobility, and leading figures in the world of the arts. A survivor’s memoir told with acute observation and a dry sense of humour.
This is a remarkable memoir of an extraordinary life. … In Charley’s Woods the author shows himself to be not only a talented writer but one with unusual perception and emotional understanding. For all the hardship he has undergone, he tells his story with wit, sympathy and an admirable lack of self-pity. The worlds revealed – in England, Austria, Morocco, France — are unlike any other and his book will stay with me for a very long time.
Selina Hastings, Biographer
This powerful memoir could easily have been a misery one, written, like so many others, with self-pity, rancour and anger…It really is a harrowing story, yet it is told with wit, grace and acceptance. And much humour. It is elegantly written, with many extraordinary, vividly evoked characters encountered at home and abroad, and much camp gossip… The writer, as well as being very entertaining company for this reader, possesses a quality not exhibited by his adoptive family: kindness. A fine and remarkable book.
…deep, amusing, candid, tormented, lively, and insightful…without flinching and with great honesty and such generosity of spirit.
Mitchell Owens, Decorative Arts Editor at Architectural Digest
The sense of the casual cruelties which that generation inflicted on the young so powerfully conveyed. Flawless prose, but a very personal voice passim.
Rupert Christiansen, critic