This fascinating autobiography tells of the author-playwright Peter Rowley's transatlantic life and the tragedies involving his two English half-brothers, John and George.
The Rowleys were a wealthy family from Huntingdonshire, now a part of Cambridgeshire, who become engulfed by the second World War. The oldest brother, John, suffered a breakdown at Dunquerque, was jilted by his girl friend, attempted suicide and became incarcerated in an asylum. But he was the heir, and soon-to-be Lord of the Manor of St. Neots, Huntingdonshire and Morcott, Rutland. George remained in one of the manor houses.
The youngest sibling, Peter, was take to America in the last convoy of the European part of the War. As an eleven year old he describes his impressions of friendly midwesterners. His step-father, a domineering American Air Force colonel, moves Peter and his mother to an Alabama air base commanded by a general who wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on Moscow. There are adventures in a boarding school in North Carolina, notable for its hypocrisy and repressed sexuality and an account of his undergraduate years at Princeton - described as "a glorified prep school" - including brief glimpses of Donald Rumsfeld, Ralph Nader, and Audrey Hepburn.
After three years Peter left Princeton and began a newspaper career for several years in New England and London. Gradually the truth about John's life in a sanitarium emerges, as the author resumes living in the U.K. He learns of the strange private life of his other half-brother, George.
He returns to America. There are accounts of the author's personal dilemma during the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962, a trip to Hollywood including a night at Jane Wyatt's house and a lunch at a successful producer's Bel Air mansion. There are also vignettes of old "society" New York.
As part of the author's search for the meaning of life there is a portrayal of South Africa during the apartheid era, including interviews with two leading figures who were subsequently assassinated by the South African secret police. Simultaneously Peter attempts to bring order to his English family's existence. There are lawsuits and a dramatic meeting with his insane relation who the author had not seen for 28 years.
Peter becomes involved in the anti-Vietnam war movement, becoming a supporter of Dan Berrigan, the priest who burns draft board files. Before going to jail Berrigan marries Peter to a beautiful Hungarian, Terez, also a refugee from war.
The book ends with the couple trying to arrange for a well-know psychiatrist in London to treat the tragic "spoil of war," Second Lieutenant John Rowley of The Priory sanatorium in west London.
|Edition description:||PETER ROWLEY|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)|
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"A devastating commentary on the decline of the English upper class."--(Warren Adler, author of The War of the Roses)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hemingway doing Bertie Wooster This is an enjoyable book which describes a varied life in England then in America then back to England including glimpses of some interesting and prominent people. I couldn't put it down. It starts out as a saga of a young boy who seems to remember everything, recalling his childhood impressions of people and places then his later reflections on them. Peter describes his experiences of growing up, his emerging understanding of himself and his sexuality and the reality of his dual American-English life. His descriptions of maturing in east-coast United States includes interesting stories of his personal adventures and a new perspective on aspects of my own life where Peter's and mine intersected. I first met Peter in 1948 when I was a university student in Chicago and he was a schoolboy we were only just aware of each other's existence and had little interest in each other at that time. It was at that same time that I got to know Peter's mother Freda, my stepmother. I learned little then of her previous life in England. Peter's autobiography gave me a new look at that life with her land-owner husband which had been one of wealth and privilege. Pre-second-world-war life in England amongst a varied and sometimes bizarre group of family and friends was interesting and amusingly described. Tragedy in Peter's family and the trauma of his own removal from his familiar England is told with casual wit which only just hides the personal pain of his transition to his new life. Peter's descriptions of his often troubled interactions with my father (his stepfather) helped to give me a new perspective on my relationship with my father. Parts of the book were great fun to read as Peter does 'have a way with words' as I have written to Peter 'your descriptions of your perambulations around the US, England and elsewhere struck me that they were written like Hemingway doing Bernie Wooster, light and succinct'. He has a number of cryptic yet telling comments on various people one in particular which stands out in my memory is about my father during the war: 'he liked bombing the Germans'. I can recommend the book as varied, amusing and a worthwhile look at contrasts between English upper-class living and east-cost U.S. life, and the demands of growing up in a new country.
I was delighted to receive and read through Peter Rowley's autobiography. It was surprising and dramatic. The experiences are often amazing and unpredictable. Mr. Rowley writes in a clear voice - frequently humorous, sometimes dramatic. It is a very remarkable book and I highly recommend it.
Peter Rowley's memoir is a compelling, humorous and occasionally provocative book. It gave me a surprising insight into English and American life. The characters are beautifully drawn, often touching and with two relations, tragic. I could not put it down.