In the Days of Rain
For generations, Rebecca Stott’s family belonged to the Exclusive Brethren, a Christian sect who believed the world was ruled by Satan. After 15 years preaching as a minister, her father rebelled, remarried, and found new meaning in the literature, poetry and film the cult had banned. On his deathbed, he asked her to complete his memoir, and their taped conversations revealed secrets more terrible than she had ever imagined. Winner of the 2017 Costa Biography Award.
A Notable Woman
The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt
Jean Pratt was a trainee architect, journalist and publicist who lived in a Buckinghamshire cottage and ran a local bookshop. Though she was well-known in bookselling circles, none of her friends had any idea that, from the age of 16, she kept a diary, which ran to more than a million words by the time she died in 1986. It recounts, with aching honesty and infectious humour, love and loss, wartime privations, books read, indiscreet gossip - and her many feline companions.
A Secret Sisterhood
The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf
Using letters and diaries, some previously unpublished, this biography uncovers the hidden friendships that sustained four of the world’s greatest women writers: Jane Austen’s bond with the family servant and amateur playwright Anne Sharp; Charlotte Brontë’s admiration for her unconventional schoolfriend Mary Taylor; the transatlantic correspondence between George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and the highly charged friendship of Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield.
The Poets' Daughters
Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge
Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge were lifelong friends. They were also the daughters of best friends, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the poetic geniuses who shaped the Romantic age. Drawing on many unpublished sources, this dual biography charts for the first time the lives and friendship of these two remarkable women. Devoting their energies and talents to their fathers' literary reputations, they also wrestled with the darker legacy of fame, including anorexia, drug addiction and depression.
E. M. Forster
A New Life
One of the mysteries of EM Forster's life is why, after the appearance of A Passage to India in 1924, he never published another novel, despite living to be 90. Based on new interviews and access to Forster's previously restricted diaries, this sensitive biography shows how deeply his ideas on individual freedom, love and sexuality permeated his subsequent career as an essayist, broadcaster and public intellectual, and how they have shaped the more tolerant society we enjoy today. Off-mint.
The poems and memoirs of Siegfried Sassoon have done much to shape our perception of the First World War as callous, unjust and unnecessary. This magisterial biography charts his upbringing, his military service, his time in the Scottish hospital for shell-shocked officers where he befriended Wilfred Owen, and his later life. The result is a perceptive portrait of a complex man who was both a war hero and a pacifist, a product of the establishment and its fiercest critic.
After a Funeral
Diana Athill had read Waguih Ghali’s novel, Beer in the Snooker Club, long before she met and fell in love with him. Love turned to friendship, and Ghali, or ‘Didi’, carried on living in her flat, where he ultimately took his own life. Published 13 years later, this is Athill’s honest account of the three years they spent together.
A Portrait of Harper Lee, from Scout to Go Set A Watchman
The author of To Kill a Mockingbird remained a reclusive figure despite the novel’s success. This biography sheds light on her enigmatic character, her relations with Truman Capote and her editor Tay Hohoff, the death of her beloved sister Alice, and the controversy around her former agent’s acquisition of the Mockingbird copyright. Fully revised and updated, it includes the surprise publication of her first novel, long believed lost, in 2015, shortly before she died. Slightly off-mint.
Time to be in Earnest
A Fragment of Autobiography
PD James (1920–2014) was not only the most stylish and intelligent crime writer of her generation – she was an influential figure in politics, culture and the media. In this, her only autobiographical work, she considers the year leading up to her 78th birthday, and looks back over her past: growing up in the 1920s and ’30s, giving birth during an air raid, working for the Home Office forensic department, and her career as a novelist.
The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies
The Nobel Prize-winning author of a dozen novels, William Golding is still remembered chiefly for his first dark vision of humanity, Lord of the Flies. Drawing on unpublished papers including the novelist’s private journal, this illuminating biography plumbs the sources of that darkness in the writer himself; a war hero who considered himself a monster, who battled depression and alcoholism, but put his faith in the imagination above all.
Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship
When Nabokov arrived in America as a penniless exile in 1940, Wilson was an acclaimed writer and critic who became his mentor. This account examines their close friendship and describes how it soured after the success of Lolita in 1955 brought Nabokov worldwide fame. Slightly off-mint with felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
An Illustrated Life
This concise introduction to the life and work of Wilfred Owen (1893–1918) draws on manuscripts, artefacts and family photographs to describe his upbringing on the Welsh borders, his search for a profession, and his military service, including his time at the Craiglockhart sanatorium where he met Siegfried Sassoon. Accompanied by some of his best-known poems, it explores the literary apprenticeship of the ‘poet’s poet’, and the growth of his reputation after his death just a week before the Armistice.
The Banker's Sister
Jane Austen’s favourite brother Henry established himself as a banker in 1806, and built up an extensive business before it collapsed in the financial crash of 1816. He also acted as his sister’ agent, dealing with publishers and printers on her behalf. This dual biography explores for the first time the close connection between his financial and her literary career, to reveal how her novels draw on his experiences to highlight the economic speculations and crises of the Regency era.
The Shadow in the Garden
A Biographer's Tale
James Atlas, the biographer of the American poet Delmore Schwartz and the novelist Saul Bellow, reflects on the pursuit of literary biography and tells his own story as a biographer, from his student days studying under Richard Ellman at Oxford, to his ‘archaic laments’ in the age of email; but also traces the history of biography and great literary biographers, from Plutarch’s Lives to Richard Holmes’s Coleridge.
The Lost Landscape
A Writer's Coming of Age
In this candid and moving memoir, one of America’s most acclaimed novelists recounts her tough rural upbringing in upstate New York. Through the eyes of her younger self, the book evokes the emotions of childhood and adolescence, from early friendships to her first encounters with death. Recalling her burgeoning desire to tell stories about the world and the people she meets, Oates reveals how those experiences coloured her later writing.
We have a great deal of information on Geoffrey Chaucer's busy and eventful life – from the important offices he held while doing the king's business to his capture in battle and indictment for rape. In the first volume in his Brief Lives series, Peter Ackroyd shows that the real-life figure is often at odds with Chaucer's persona, presented in his literary works as a bookish and self-deprecating poet.
The PG Wodehouse Miscellany
PG Wodehouse’s amiable eccentrics – Psmith, Ukridge, Lord Emsworth and, of course, Jeeves and Wooster – remain as popular today as ever. But what of their creator? Including many quotations from the stories, this concise biography identifies their real-life prototypes. With a foreword by Stephen Fry.
Love from Boy
Roald Dahl's Letters to His Mother
Roald Dahl wrote his first letter to his mother, Sofie Magdalene, when he was nine, and the correspondence continued into his adult life. This carefully chosen selection, accompanied by photographs and biographical information, charts his wartime service in the Royal Air Force, his time in Hollywood, and his budding literary career. The collection offers touching evidence of the bond between mother and son, and shows the development of Dahl’s fantastical imagination – and sadistic sense of humour. Off-mint and felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
Letters to the Lady Upstairs
No. 102 Boulevard Haussmann is an elegant address in the eighth arrondissement of Paris. Upstairs lives Madame Williams, with her second husband and her harp; downstairs, Marcel Proust is trying to write In Search of Lost Time. Between 1909 and 1919, a correspondence that starts with a request for silence develops into a touching friendship, discussing books, music, domestic arrangements, illness, and the sadness of losing friends in the war.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a shy, stammering mathematician; Lewis Carroll the visionary writer who gave the world Alice, the Red Queen, the Cheshire Cat, the Jabberwock and the Snark. This authoritative, affectionate biography, which was originally published in 1995, draws on access to the family archives and brings together the two sides of this remarkable man to explore the emotional turbulence and self-reproach that lay beneath his apparently placid existence, and gave rise to some of the wildest characters in literature.
From St Louis to The Waste Land
'TS Eliot was never young': so begins Robert Crawford's superb biography of the young poet. Quoting extensively from poetry and prose, interviews and previously undisclosed memoirs, Crawford presents a full and detailed portrait of 'Tom' in his youth and early career, from his childhood in St Louis, Missouri, where he was born in 1888, to the publication of The Waste Land in New York and London in 1922.
Agatha Christie: A Life in Theatre
Agatha Christie's fame as a writer of detective fiction has obscured her theatrical work; the long-running hit The Mousetrap is just the best-known of a string of ventures that established her as the most successful female playwright of all time. Filled with extracts from unpublished plays and letters, this well-researched book charts her childhood theatre-going experiences, her first attempts to write for the stage and her subsequent popularity. Extensive endnotes can be downloaded from the publisher's website.