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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Born in Chicago in 1897, 'Chips' Channon settled in England after the Great War, married into the immensely wealthy Guinness family and served as Conservative MP for Southend-on-Sea from 1935 until his death in 1958. His career was unremarkable. His diaries are quite the opposite. Elegant, gossipy and bitchy by turns, they are the unfettered observations of a man who went everywhere and who knew everybody. Whether describing the antics of London society in the interwar years, or the growing scandal surrounding his close friends Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson during the abdication crisis, or the mood in the House of Commons in the lead-up to the Munich crisis, his sense of drama and his eye for the telling detail are unmatched. These are diaries that bring a whole epoch vividly to life.

A heavily abridged and censored edition of the diaries was published in 1967. Only now, 60 years after Chips' death, can the text be shared in all its glory.

©2021 Chips Channon (P)2021 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries (Volume 1)

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Wholly inappropriate choice of reader

These diaries fizz with humour, insight, malice, and charm, and depict a social elite in which accent and the inflection of language were intimately bound up with its sense of identity and the stratagems it employed to keep outsiders at bay. Poor Tom Ward has a voice that is so dull, joyless, and pedestrian that he sounds like a slightly concussed Rugby prop forward; and his curiously hybrid accent - part mid-Atlantic, part Middle England, with the occasional weird dash of Scots - is about as unsuited to the presentation of the fastidiously self-invented-patrician Channon as can be imagined. Ward presents these diaries as though he were reading a stock-exchange report. My recommendation is to stick to the printed version, and hope that a different reader is employed for Volumes II and III.

22 people found this helpful

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Superb Narration

"Chips" Channon was fortunate to move in influential circles during a critical period in British history, from the end of WW1 through the Edward VIII abdication to the eve of WW2. We are fortunate that he kept a detailed, inciteful and absorbing series of diaries that are brutal in their honesty and self deprecation.
He was fortunate to come from a wealthy family and then marry a Guinness heiress and that gave him entree into a social and political class that makes his diaries so fascinating. These unexpurgated diaries are well worth the wait and he deals in detail with political heavyweights such as Churchill, Baldwin, Chamberlain, Edward VIII and many others whom he had intimate knowledge of. "Chips" does not seek to minimise his own amoral sexuality or his increasingly disintigrating marriage.
On the subject of the narration, I really cannot understand the minimal criticism. I found Tom Ward to have the perfect voice, pacing and tone for a British listener and such a relief to hear such a well modulated narration.

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I stuck with it and really liked it

The narration seemed a little odd at first and not very relaxing. However the content is so revealing and intimate that it is a worthy listen overall. This is an inside story of between the wars aristocracy that lifts the lid on the superficial others. Chips’ contemporaneous comments are thought provoking and better than hindsight. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the period covered. Where else will you find pen portraits of so many people of the times? Go for it!
Kenneth.

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A Socialist Primer

This is a must read book for socialists and for those who have any lingering respect for the aristocracy and the royal family. For Socialists it will confirm the idea that it is truly absurd to imagine that the elite are there because of any personal merit. For those who might admire the aristocracy and the royal family there is plenty to show just how trivial and ridiculous they are.

The real value of the book is in its demonstration of how and why some of the British elite were seduced by Nazi ideology. It brings you up short to find someone who hates Winston Churchill with a vengeance.

The diaries are very revealing about the relationship between Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson who, I came to think on the basis what Chip’s said, to be a remarkable adventurousness.

Of course Chips doesn't say anything to his own detriment, indeed he is a man who seems incapable of introspection, but despite that I did find myself liking him in the end and would listen to the next volume. Of course he is in many respects completely odious. An illustration of his self blindness is his astonishment that his wife would have an affair when he is bonking everything with a pulse. He concludes that his wife’s depression is because she has stopped having sex with him! Chips’ open anti-Semitism, mixed with his other prejudices, is disgusting.

There has been some discussion in the reviews about the narration and I think it is brilliantly done. The narrator has made what can sometimes seems much like a shopping list interesting and he does it very, very well, the result is kind of meditative.

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Brideshead Wasn't Visited

Sir Henry (Chips) Channon was a USA born multi (as Nancy Mitford used to say) from Chicago. Anybody who was anybody went to his parties and just in case he was missing anything he went to "everybody" elses. That all, or most, of these parties were held in order to meet "someone" who "everybody" had met last week doesn't help. In some respects the most interesting material in this weighty tome are the footnotes - which sadly one does not get to hear. There are some great set pieces, state funerals, coronations (George VI, I think) and the whole abdication nonsense. Though to my surprise he very quickly goes off the boil about the Duke of Windsor - I'd have thought he would be a great fan, but he isn't. Quite caustic in fact, almost as unimpressed by him as Sir Alan Lascelles and that's pre abdication. He does like Wallis though. That he is supremely unconscious of his frantic scramble to make sure that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth don't freeze him out of high society is very funny. Creepy crawling round the Duke & Duchess of Kent is also very funny. He is very silly. Though also very well read, much more so than you would expect from wading through this vast compendium of pre war "Jennifer's Diaries". Mrs Betty Kenward was obviously influenced by him - his copy (like hers) is sometimes "I went to a delightful cocktail party for ......... at. Present were ........ Noel Coward nailed it with "I've been to a marvellous party, with Nu-Nu and Nada and Nell"

Some of the people he hero worships (Lord Curzon in particular) came across to me as utter arseholes, as he does at times. He was gay, or bi, and one assumes having a raging affair with Viscount Gage for a chunk of this volume. That Viscount Gage was engaged in lukewarm pursuit of a certain Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at around the same time does give pause for thought. There is a huge amount of social - as in high society - history here but I'm not struck by his writing style and excellent though the performance of the reader is it's a huge effort not to be sidetracked by the ironing.

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Self centred, self important & rather vulgar

A previous reviewer already described Channon as an odious man but one should add seriously judgmental and such a poor judge of character! A serious social climber afraid of work unless it involved partying and sniping at the expense of others. Poor narration, but maybe he just fed up with the constant repetition too!!

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Chips on the shoulder...

Intriguing, maddening diaries. There’s no doubt Channon was a very good diarist - the entries buzz with anecdote, detail and opinion, much of the opinion wildly wrong headed; he’s a quite zealous appeaser and fan of both Hitler and Mussolini. He loathes socialism, presumably because it’s a threat to the way of life he has so assiduously wormed his way into. Very interesting insight into privilege and class and the workings of power ( even though Channon never as powerful as he he thinks he is) Tom Ward perfect narrator; captures the snobbish , ‘cultured’ tone, with the mid Atlantic accent reminding us that Chips is always a bit of an outsider looking in.

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Pinch of salt

Sadly I was upset by Mr. Channon's tales of his own doings and those of the upper eschalons... the not so great and the even less great during the early part of the 20th Century. Totally without moral compass. His predictions and forecasts have proved incorrect and his loyalties misplaced. The only redeeming accounts were those of his love for his son Paul and the sadness he felt by being rejected by his wife. I take all of his other viewpoints with a pinch of salt. The narrator does a pretty good job considering this is a weighty tome but numerous mispronunciations jar.

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Less scandalous than you might think

The content is pretty much as expected in that it shows Channon to be a snob and toadie of the first order so you can’t complain that a lot of it is an interminably repetitive series of entries about lunches and dinners. The interesting snippets about world events are present but not as much as I had hoped. The “scandal” bits which were supposed to be wicked about certain people are also present but even less than the newsy bits. Still, I have enjoyed it.
The actor doing the reading had a tough task because it is such a long read. At first I liked the way he changed from a USA accent to a more UK one but when the accent changed into what I think the actor must have imagined is an English upper class one I found it rather contrived and annoying.

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What a ghastly, ghastly man

I came to the book expecting him to have been wildly amusing. After all, he was famous for nothing in particular. Turns out he was not amusing at all, but a spoiled and silly person. If you want to see inside the head of a vain, antisemitic, vastly over-entitled and hateful man this book is perfect. I was riveted. It's historically interesting because CC knew every upper-class bod you've ever heard of from 1920-38 and some of them became far more well known after World War II. Channon's diaries probably reflect the social attitudes of most people he knew in London and Paris and in the US too; but for sheer self-centred foolishness he would be hard to rival.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-02-22

Brilliant book. Brilliant narrator.

Loathesome man, brilliant diarist. A fly on the wall for so many world shattering events. I could not stop listening to them and have promptly purchased Vol 2 of Chips’ diaries. Exceptionally well narrated.

1 person found this helpful