Book Review: The Secret Life of the Savoy

Martinis – or champagne – at the ready!  Any else just won’t do.  If ever there was a book that demanded you dress up in your finery to read it, then this has to be it! The cover alone holds the promise of glamour within … and just a whiff of scandal.

non-fiction | biography | memoir


Rating: 3 out of 5.

the blurb

In 1889, Victorian impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte opened The Savoy, Britain’s first luxury hotel. Allowing the rich to live like royalty, it attracted glamour, scandal and a cast of eccentric characters, with the D’Oyly Carte family elevated to a unique vantage point on high society.

The Secret Life of the Savoy tells their story through three generations: Richard (a showman who made his fortune from the Gilbert and Sullivan operas), Rupert (who expanded the D’Oyly Carte empire through two world wars and the roaring twenties), and Bridget (the reluctant heiress and last of the family line).

In this, the first biography of the family, Olivia Williams revives their extroardinary cultural legacy, told through the prism of their iconic hotel and its many distinguished guests.

Author Olivia Williams | Published by Headline on 3rd September 2020 | 323 Pages (hardback)

my thoughts

When I won a copy of The Secret Life of The Savoy from the very lovely Mairead I was over the moon.  Her Twitter giveaway photo lured me with a photo of the cover and I was hooked.  It’s a feast for the eyes, and held the promise of a glamorous, decadent non-fiction book that I was really looking forward to reading.

The book is more than just a memoir of the iconic hotel and theatre; it’s a biography of the D’Oyly Carte dynasty who were described as “the greatest impresarios and hoteliers in the world”, at their height.  Within the first few chapters of this book you’ll be in no doubt that this plaudit is richly deserved. 

As you would expect from the book’s cover and blurb, a glittering array of guests make their appearances.  There are one or two scandals to indulge your inner gossip, although on the whole the book upholds the hotel’s proud mantra of discretion. But not to worry, because whilst the scandal is kept stylishly understated, the flash-bulb glamour is abundant … in the theatre, the hotel, and the private lives of the D’Oyly Cartes.

The standout for me, however, is the incredible and exacting lengths both Richard and Rupert D’Oyly Carte went to in the creation of this iconic institution.  For those who don’t know, I’m a chartered marketing professional, and what I read in this book is an absolute masterclass in marketing – knowing your customers (better than they do), having the foresight and bravery to invest … even in times of economic trickiness, … predicting each and every step in the customer journey.  It’s a customer service bible … or it should be!

Don’t just take my word for this … you can also read Mairead’s superb review here.

The Secret Life of the Savoy would make a wonderful Christmas gift … or any kind of gift, really … for that person in your life who adores high society.

The Secret Life of the Savoy by Olivia Williams

The Secret Life of the Savoy is available now from Waterstones in hardback and paper formats, and from Amazon in hardback, kindle and audiobook formats.


One thought on “Book Review: The Secret Life of the Savoy

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