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Scenes and Apparitions


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About the Author

Sir Roy Strong CH, historian, diarist and gardener, was director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum. He is author of some forty books on a wide variety of subjects. In 1982 he was knighted for his services to the arts, and in 2016 he was made a Companion of Honour in recognition of his contribution to the country's cultural life. He lives, writes and gardens in Herefordshire.


Funny, barbed and moving, Roy Strong's diaries are a treasure ... magnificently readable ... This volume of Strong's diaries is chiefly notable as an unflinchingly honest appraisal of the change and decay its author sees all around him. We knew Strong had a lacerating wit and an elegant pen; here we see the depth of his humanity as he stares into the abyss of mortality -- Richard Morrison * THE TIMES *
Although it encompasses tragedy - the murder of his friend Gianni Versace - and concludes in grief, with the death from cancer of his wife, Julia Trevelyan Oman, it is, in essence, a portrait of emotional and creative fulfilment, in marriage, friendships, work and, in particular, the celebrated garden that he and his wife created at their Herefordshire home, The Laskett. There are some splendid set-piece descriptions of occasions ranging from Elton John's 50th birthday party ('like an overgrown schoolboy dressed as Prince Charming at the ball') to a concert for the Queen Mother at Buckingham Palace ('any sense of style and much else seems to have left the place'). There is plenty of comedy, often at Sir Roy's expense ... Sometimes the array of names is dizzying ... the lack of notes keeps the book buoyant and easy to read ... I fervently hope that he doesn't keep us waiting another 20 years for the next instalment -- Michael Hall * COUNTRY LIFE *
Viper wit from the gardener, writer and Knight of exquisite taste * DAILY TELEGRAPH *
Everyone loves a good gossip, especially when it involves the rich and powerful, which is why Roy Strong's second volume of diaries, Scenes and Apparitions, covering the period from 1988 to 2003 is such a delight. The former director of London's Victoria and Albert Museum was still very much part of the establishment at this time, yet detached enough from it to offer acidic and often heartfelt observations on its well-upholstered inhabitants * CHOICE magazine *
When it comes to viperish high society gossip, Roy Strong is in a class of his own, and the 25 years of his diaries collected here should keep any armchair socialite quiet throughout the festive season -- John Preston * DAILY MAIL *
Articulate, erudite and amusing reflections from a very agreeable national treasure * EVERGREEN *
His diaries are politely savage, stinging as he goes ... It reads as a Who's Who of royalty, grandees in country houses, politicians (mostly despised, particularly New Labour he is revolted by Tony Blair), great gardeners and the media ... His socially acute and opinionated observations are seasoned by glimpses into some surviving historic rituals as both observer and participant ... He works incredibly hard as a man of letters, earning his living as an author, lecturer, broadcaster, curator and consultant, enormously prolific and productive... His ability to take offence is prodigious. We are informatively entertained ... and informed by character analyses of the great and the good from courtiers to politicians to the cultural world -- Marina Vaizey * ART NEWSPAPER *

This second instalment of diaries from the historian, gardener and incorrigible gossip covers the years from 1988 to 2003, when Sir Roy abandoned public life only to reinvent himself as a broadcaster
and popular historian. The diaries are full of waspish observations and pithy nonsequiteurs; the 'Pinter
weekend' alone is a hoot

Throughout his diaries, which are an intermittent record of his life, concentrating on great set-piece occasions like Elton John's birthday party, Strong comes across as an odd but engaging mix of characteristics - intelligent, lively, sometimes bitchy and often camp ... funny and self-critical, writing away indefatigably, recording history, thinking about the nature of England, and looking at the world with a lively sense of innocent wonderment -- Charles Saumarez Smith * STANDPOINT *
Sir Roy Strong, former Vice-President of NADFAS, continues his fascinating and intimate diaries where his first, Splendours and Miseries, left off ... His diaries give a glimpse of the people and places he saw, as well as key moments with his family * NADFAS REVIEW *

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