A Charmed Life

A Charmed Life

Growing up in Macbeth's Castle

Book - 2007
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"We grew up with the same parents in the same castle, but in many ways we each had a moat around us. Sometimes when visitors came they would say, "You are such lucky children; it's a fairytale life you live." And I knew they were right, it was a fairytale upbringing. But fairy tales are dark and I had no way of telling either a stranger or a friend what was going on; the abnormal became ordinary.""" Liza Campbell was the last child to be born at the impressive and renowned Cawdor Castle, the family seat of the Campbells, as featured in Shakespeare's "Macbeth." Liza's father Hugh, the twenty-fifth Thane, inherited dashing good looks, brains, immense wealth, an ancient and revered title, three stately homes, and 100,000 acres of land. "A Charmed Life" tells the story of Liza's idyllic childhood with her four siblings in Wales in the 1960s, until Hugh inherited Cawdor Castle and moved his family up to the Scottish Highlands. It was at the historical ancestral home that the fairytale began to resemble a nightmare. Increasingly overwhelmed by his enormous responsibilities, Hugh tipped into madness fuelled by drink, drugs, and extramarital affairs. Over the years, the castle was transformed into an arena of reckless extravagance and terrifying domestic violence, leading to the abrupt termination of a legacy that had been passed down through the family for six hundred years. Written with a sharp wit, "A Charmed Life" is a contemporary fairytale that tells what is like to grow up as a maiden in a castle where ancient curses and grisly events from centuries ago live on between its stone walls. Painstakingly honest and thoroughly entertaining, Liza Campbell offers a compelling look at what it is like to grow up with enormous privilege and yet watch the father she idealizes destroy himself, his family, and his heritage. Praise for A CHARMED LIFE: "Beautifully written...eminently readable...A memoir which has many elements to identify with--even if you ain't no Lady." --Tama Janowitz, author of "Slaves of New York" and "Area Code 212" "Campbell tells the wild, sorry tale with a sharp, offhand wit." --" Sunday Times "(UK)
"She writes not from catharsis or revenge, but in the spirit of puzzlement and discovery...Completely compelling." --" Daily Telegraph "(UK)
"A gripping page turner...A CHARMED LIFE is a great title, and Liza Campbell's book lives up to it." --" Daily Mail "(UK) "A modern tragedy ... Written with great courage ... A stark tale of profligacy and injustice." --" Country Life "(UK)
"A very powerful, painful story...I have never read such a compelling study of addiction...An exceptional writer." --" Mail on Sunday "(UK)
"This is a sad book; yet Campbell's lack of sentimentality and needle-sharp wit make for a guiltily voyeuristic read." -" Independent "(UK)""
"A memoir that is as free of self-pity as it is of sentimentality ... Poignant."-"Scotsman "(UK) "As a prose stylist, Liza is comparable to Nancy Astor: wry, deadpan, whimsical." -- "The Sunday Telegraph" (UK)
Publisher: New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9780312374778
Characteristics: 323 p. ; 22 cm.


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ECiriello Dec 04, 2012

Not that interesting. Shows that priviledge mixed with time and money is not a good combination, in particular for her father. The best parts of the book were the historical references (e.g., the battle of Culloden). Now there's an interesting branch of the family tree.

Oct 19, 2011

Another person sharing details of a dysfunctional family. Thing is, since all of us humans are fallible to some degree, then it follows that to varying degrees all families are dysfunctional. A lot of these books just seem to be an excuse for the author to attempt to deal with remembered childhood issues, and some writers succeed better than others. That being said, this author is competent and her story is somewhat interesting, however in my estimation, not interesting enough that I will actually finish the book.

Apr 11, 2011

This is a candid look at growing up in the Thane of Cawdor’s castle.

Liza Campbell, the author, is the daughter of the 25th Thane of Cawdor. Yes that Thane of Cawdor from Shakespeare. She writes a brilliant account of her father’s life – warts and all. Hugh Campbell, Liza’s father, had plenty of warts. He drank to excess and was an inveterate womanizer. Yet on paper he came across as a different kind of person. Hugh is witty, clever at times, generous and at others not so much. Liza’s love for her father comes through every page of the book.

She talks about the castle and its history, separates the myth from fact where her former home is considered. It is more like a life with a difficult father, who for one reason or another appears to be unsure of himself hence his drinking and dalliances with numerous women. With his children Liza tells us he is not the easy going father he could have been.

When he inherits the castle at his father’s death, he apparently talked a great deal about the traditions and responsibilities of being the local laird. But when he dies, it is found that he has given his estate to his second wife and excludes his son who subsequently became the Thane of Cawdor, from ever owning the family house.

The book begins with the death of Hugh Campbell and ends with the aftermath of that death. Between Liza tells her story candidly and with humour. She talks about her boarding schools, boyfriends and the reaction of her father to her and her siblings growing up.

She talks too, about Scottish history as it pertained to her area of Scotland including the Battle of Culloden which occurred nearby and the aftermath of that struggle. Touching briefly on the treatment the Scots received at the hands of the victorious English.

How her father for one reason or other disposed of the property the family owned in Wales that created the wealth to maintain the castle in Scotland. Without this income Hugh Campbell was forced to open the castle to tourists.

Liza is at times irreverent and at others recalls the awe she felt for her father and the great sadness she felt when he was gone. Well worth a read.

Jun 27, 2010

I absolutely love this book. Liza Campbell takes readers through her family history, her childhood history, and the history of Scotland, to better understand a complicated character: her father. And it's fantastic! It's definitely a page turner. I read this book in two days. And for someone who takes months to read a Harry Potter book, that's saying a lot.

Jun 13, 2008

How the other half lives and messes up


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