Campbell, Liza 1959–
Campbell, Liza 1959–
(Lady Elizabeth Campbell)
Born September 24, 1959, in Scotland; christened Elizabeth, the second daughter of the sixth Earl and twenty-fifth Thane of Cawdor; daughter of Hugh Campbell, the Sixth Earl of Cawdor, and Cathryn Hinde; married William Robert Charles "Willie" Athill (big-game fisherman), 1990 (divorced, 1993); children: Storm and Atticus.
Artist, calligrapher, writer, and columnist. Exhibitions: Artwork displayed at exhibitions of engraved soapstone at All Saints Gallery, Babbington House, the Sladmore Gallery, and the Michael Naimski Gallery.
Title Deeds: A Work of Friction (memoir), Doubleday (London, England), 2006, published as A Charmed Life: Growing up in Macbeth's Castle, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Author of column "Adventures of a Past It Girl" for Harpers & Queen, 2000-c. 2004; contributor to periodicals, including the Daily Telegraph and the Independent.
Liza Campbell is the second daughter of Hugh Campbell, who was the sixth Earl and the twenty-fifth Thane of Cawdor. Christened Elizabeth, Campbell spent her youth in the 1960s growing up in Cawdor Castle in Scotland, which has long been erroneously associated with the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare. An accomplished artist and writer who wrote a column for Harpers & Queen magazine for four years, Campbell is the author of the memoir A Charmed Life: Growing up in Macbeth's Castle, published in England as Title Deeds: A Work of Friction.
In her memoir, Campbell tells of a life of privilege and wealth that many viewed as "charmed" but which turned out to be horrific. The problem lay primarily with her titled father, renowned for his looks, wealth, and intelligence, who became increasingly mad, making life for his wife and children a hellish nightmare. Writing in the book's prologue, the author ruminates on why she wrote the book that appears so disparaging to a man she says she has never stopped loving. Campbell writes: "But the answer, the totally honest answer, was for a reckoning. My story has at its centre a protagonist who never got his comeuppance. It was this that drove me. I couldn't right the wrong." Attempting to summarize in a single sentence the idea that forms the book's foundation, Campbell continues: "I think perhaps it is ‘Papa was odd, but I got even.’"
A contributor to the London Telegraph noted that the author begins her book with a benign portrayal of her father and reminiscences of a childhood that began happily enough, but that the author quickly changes focus to present a disparaging look at her family life. The Telegraph contributor wrote: "What follows is a toxic demolition job, chronicling dear Papa's violence, drunkenness, lasciviousness, snobbery, cruelty and sundry occasions when he acted improperly towards her when she was a teenager; once when he demanded her presence in his bed, another when he insisted she frisk him to find a dagger used for eviscerating deer that he had hidden in his underpants."
Campbell's depiction of her father and her family life with her mother and four siblings includes accounts of her father's abuse of her mother as well as his many extramarital affairs. She describes her father's increasingly erratic behavior, which ultimately led to Liza's mother divorcing her father and to the end of a family legacy that had lasted for six hundred years. The legacy ended when Campbell's father cut his older son out of his will and left everything to his second wife. As a result, Campbell and her siblings were sent away from Cawdor Castle, which they can enter now only if they buy tickets to tour the castle like everyone else.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to A Charmed Life as a "nightmarish memoir that gives fiction a run for its money." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Alida Becker commented: "Like many memoirs, Campbell's is most vivid when it deals with her earliest years, and the lively momentum of her childhood stories continues through the initial adventure of settling into a castle that, although built 300 years after King Duncan's death, has always been associated with one of Shakespeare's bloodiest plays."
One-Minute Book Reviews contributor Janice Harayda, was, like several other reviewers, not overly impressed with Campbell's efforts to psychoanalyze the dysfunctions of her father and family. However, Harayda noted that the author is an excellent reporter who depicts the eccentricities of her aristocratic family and friends extremely well. Harayda wrote: "Such vivid glimpses of a vanishing world help to make this book more than another memoir of an imploding family. So do Campbell's wit, sharp observations on life and refusal to tack on the artificially upbeat ending of so many American memoirs of family turbulence."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Campbell, Liza, A Charmed Life: Growing up in Macbeth's Castle, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Booklist, September 15, 2007, June Sawyers, review of A Charmed Life, p. 18.
Entertainment Weekly, October 19, 2007, Tina Jordan, review of A Charmed Life, p. 131.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Title Deeds: A Work of Friction.
Library Journal, September 15, 2007, Maria C. Bagshaw, review of A Charmed Life, p. 67.
New York Times Book Review, October 28, 2007, Alida Becker, "What Bloody Man Is That?," review of A Charmed Life.
Telegraph (London, England), June 25, 2006, "Growing up in MacBeth's Castle," review of A Charmed Life.
Vogue, October, 2007, Eve MacSweeney, "Fabled Fortress; Liza Campbell Writes of Life behind the Drawbridge of a Legendary Scottish Castle," review of A Charmed Life, p. 318.
W, June, 2007, Samantha Conti, "Daddy Dearest: In a Controversial New Memoir, Liza Campbell Recalls the Not-so-Sunny Side of Growing up on Her Family's Legendary Scottish Estate," profile of author, p. 118.
Larkspurliterature,http://larkspurliterature.blogspot.com/ (February 10, 2008), review of A Charmed Life.
One-Minute Book Reviews,http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/ (April 9, 2008), Janice Harayda, "Hail Falls on the Family of a Modern Thane of Cawdor," review of A Charmed Life.
Thomas Dunne Books,http://www.thomasdunnebooks.com/ (July 22, 2008), brief profile of author.