Book Review: Anthony Russell’s Outrageous Fortune: Growing Up at Leeds Castle

Posted May 25, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Anthony Russell’s Outrageous Fortune: Growing Up at Leeds Castle

Outrageous Fortune: Growing Up at Leeds Castle


Anthony Russell

memoir that was published by St. Martin's Press on November 26, 2013 and has 320 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

An autobiography about growing up in Leeds Castle in England and taking it all for granted.

My Take

The memories are from a child’s perspective, and a shy one at that. It reads like a sanitized version of a dysfunctional childhood, all very surface with little revealed. Sorry, read that as “understated”.

Oh, perhaps that’s not a fair comment, but I grew irritated with Russell harping on about how living at Leeds Castle and having everything done for him didn’t prepare him for the real world. No kidding. What bugged me was Russell never gave any examples of how this screwed things up. It was so generalized.

As for his outrageous fortune in living and growing up in such a fabulous setting, that’s all it was…a frame. There was nothing substantial inside it. His nanny was more of a parent to him than his own parents or his grandmothers. In spite of living with his maternal grandmother, he reckons he only actually spoke to her a handful of times. How sad is that?

As fabulous as the house was, I didn’t feel as if Russell appreciated the history of where he grew up. Instead, lol, it was a child’s concerns and fears, which were all too similar to children growing up at any social level, although I think most children at the lower levels had it better with parents and grandparents who spent time with their kids, compared to what Russell was given. Yes, he’s never had to worry about paying the rent or affording food, but he’s never had the love or interactions one would expect from a family.

I regret that his parents ignored so much of what could have benefited him as opposed to what’s always been done. It certainly sounded as if there was no interest in helping Anthony find purpose or find him playmates, and instead he spent his days with Nanny.

He does mention the people who were guests at the castle, frequent and occasional, the famous, the political, and merely noble. He refers to the perpetual bachelors, a euphemism for gay, who paid court to his grandmother. How his grandmother’s “court” spent their year, the poor treatment meted out to his mother, his own experiences at boarding school.

His father’s mother, Granny A, sounds like a single-minded rebel, a poor one compared to Granny B, but much more real. He mentions that she insisted there be no sex when Granny A married his grandfather, and I find that a truly odd insistence. Why would John Russell, Anthony’s grandfather, even marry a woman who didn’t want to produce children? I thought that was always the be-all, end-all for the aristocracy? Producing an heir?

The Cover and Title

The cover is sweet with a faded family photograph of Anthony and his brothers in front of Leeds Castle: David on his bike and Anthony leaning on the toy car in which James is sitting. A nice blend of the normal with the grand.

The title is how Anthony sees his childhood, a bit of Outrageous Fortune.