13,736 book reviews and counting...

The Crichel Boys Reviews

The Crichel Boys by Simon Fenwick

The Crichel Boys: Scenes from England's Last Literary Salon

Simon Fenwick

3.60 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Constable
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publication date: 25 Feb 2021
ISBN: 9781472132475

An elegant biography of Long Crichel, a house in a secluded village in rural Dorset which, during the second half of the twentieth century, became a hub of creativity and social activity for its denizens and their guests.

4 stars out of 5
27 Feb 2021

"commemorates a privileged world long since vanished"

By contrast, it seems wholly appropriate that a book focusing on a historical house should contain a good deal of material about the National Trust, where Knollys worked alongside Lees-Milne, his closest friend and confidante. Indeed, the preservation of old houses, a cause with which many of the leading characters were involved one way or another, is skilfully used as a running theme in a book that, with a fine balance between nostalgia and clear-sightedness, commemorates a privileged world long since vanished.


4 stars out of 5
Ysenda Maxtone Graham
25 Feb 2021

"Fenwick builds up a portrait of an enchanted world"

As Simon Fenwick reminds us in this highly evocative (if slow to get going — don't give up) account of what became 'England's last literary salon', the 1950s would prove a particularly dangerous time for English homosexuals. This was the decade when John Gielgud was arrested for soliciting in men's lavatories, and when only three witnesses in the whole country were brave enough to come forward and testify to the Wolfenden Committee that gay men lived perfectly normal, well-adjusted lives.

3 stars out of 5
Laura Freeman
20 Feb 2021

"This set are a bit Bloomsbury, a bit Oxford tweedy — with a few too many literary liggers"

Fenwick casts his net wider than Long Crichel to take in the early years of the National Trust, the Crichel Down Affair (a legal wrangle over land management and tenant farming rights that led to ministerial resignation), the trial of Lord Montagu for “gross indecency” with two RAF servicemen, the Wolfenden report (unpleasantly called “the Pansies Charter” by the Sunday Express) and the Aids crisis. While the strands are individually interesting, they don’t tie together and there isn’t enough of Long Crichel itself to sustain a single story.