castles in the airI liked it. Not loved, but for its genre, it was a pretty interesting read. And I have my librarians to thank for this because they had it randomly selected to be next to the checkout and the cover intrigued me.

Castles in the Air is a non-fiction story about a couple who eschew modern life, yearn for times gone past (uh, way way past), and are freakishly in the right place at the right time to buy a castle in Wales. What makes the story interesting from the get go is that these are not “privileged” people wanting to play at historical restoration and nostalgia. The story is about a couple with lots of education for careers that aren’t particularly lucrative who ultimately seem like real people. That’s not to say that there certainly isn’t privilege involved: it’s nice that mummy can front some of the cash payment and that they can qualify for the government to buy back a room of the castle. But overall, you can really put yourself in their shoes. And that’s kind of fun, because hey, how cool is it to buy, renovate, and live in a castle.

Most of the chapters are in chronological order and detail the major happenings of their purchase and renovation. There is also a little time focused on how, no matter how lofty the ideals, most times, they have to be compromised a bit to achieve the larger goal: like their opening for tours and doing the B&B circuit. There is a chapter dedicated to their ghost and a chapter dedicated to a rather non-nonfictional account of women from the tudorian period. I shouldn’t say that it’s “non-nonfictional.” The author provided some rather interesting information on still rooms, something I had meant to further research for a while.

There is also an interesting account of how the castle was dismantled, literally room by room, in the 1920s–as in two entire rooms from the ceiling beams to the wall paneling to the flooring were sold at auction… one room to the newspaper magnate Hearst… a la Citizen Kane.

It’s kind of nice to get to the end and understand (ok, you know it from the first chapter, but you don’t really care then) and see that they have tons of work ahead of them. See, real people never have the money to just hire out for someone to fix and improve everything in their house at once.

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