Private Newport: At Home and in the Garden

Bettie Bearden Pardee, Author, Mick Hales, Photographer Bulfinch Press $45 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8212-2848-7
The co-chair of the annual Newport Flower Show and a flower-arranging judge with the Garden Club of America, Pardee was a Bon Appetit contributing editor for 10 years and hosted the PBS series The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House. Unlike many residents, Pardee lives in Newport year-round and, though the scale of this land of scions and heiress has been reduced, there's still plenty of wealth hidden there. As Marion Oates Charles writes in the introduction,""Private Newport revolves, for the most part, around a community at ease with itself."" The residents are not pictured here, but they do speak to Pardee about the 18 properties on which she has chosen to focus. There is""A Rocky Hall Christmas"" with a giant decorated fir glowing before a burnished wood living room; there are""Sunset Views at Pelican Ledge,"" where the fireplace is inset with Wedgwood porcelain. While many of the houses date back generations, and period furnishings are appropriate to them, many of the book's color photos make an eerie, Stepford-like impression. It's as if the American upper class's idea of style were frozen in time, endlessly copying 18th-century English and French manors. Pardee is knowledgeable about the histories of various houses (""Gray Craig had a large staff, including thirty gardeners in the summer""), and her pleasure in them is clearly evident. The photos are well-framed and lit, though the interiors can seem chill and antiseptic. But the book's other main attractions, the sea and the gardens that surround it, are undeniably sumptuous.
Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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