It was a visit to the remarkable collection of modern art given by Jacob Epstein's widow to the hitherto unloved and overlooked West Midlands town of Walsall that started Cressida Connolly's researches into the Garman family. Lady Epstein was born Kathleen Garman. Memories of a blissful turn-of-the-century childhood, in a rambling Jacobean house near Walsall which had belonged to their father, caused Kathleen to choose the town as a home for the paintings and sculpture collected by herself and a rich American called Sally Ryan, together with a generous number of her late husband's own works. Tate Modern might have seemed the more obvious choice, but Kathleen, as Connolly's warm, understanding and generous-hearted book reveals, was a woman who had never allowed convention to dictate her choices.
Contemplating an article about Lady Epstein, Connolly became aware that she was one of a family who had been as remarkable for their good looks as for their bohemian lifestyle. Blessed with physical beauty, and free of any normal code of morality, the Garmans were chiefly famous for having lived