Category: BIO005000

Beyond the Secret Garden

The definitive and revealing biography of the author of The Secret Garden.

 

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s favourite theme in her fiction was the reversal of fortune, and she herself knew extremes of poverty and wealth. Born in Manchester in 1849, she emigrated with her family to Tennessee because of the financial problems caused by the cotton famine. From a young age she published her stories to help the family make ends meet. Only after she married did she publish Little Lord Fauntleroy that shot her into literary stardom.

 

On the surface, Frances’ life was extremely successful: hosting regular literary salons in her home and travelling frequently between properties in the UK and America. But behind the colourful personal and social life, she was a complex and contradictory character. She lost both parents by her twenty-first birthday, Henry James called her “the most heavenly of women” although avoided her; prominent people admired her and there were many friendships as well as an ill-advised marriage to a much younger man that ended in heartache. Her success was punctuated by periods of depression, in one instance brought on by the tragic loss of her eldest son to consumption.

 

Ann Thwaite creates a sympathetic but balanced and eye-opening biography of the woman who has enchanted numerous generations of children.

Low Life – Irreverent Reflections from the Bottom of a Glass

Described as the Tony Hancock of journalism, for forty years Bernard wrote only about himself and the failures of his life – with women, drink, doctors, horses – which have become legendary.

Low Life is an irresistible collection of the best of Bernard’s celebrated autobiographical contributions to The Spectator, once described as ‘a suicide note in weekly instalments’. Previously published in two volumes entitled Low Life: A Kind of Autobiography and Reach for the Ground, these books are now available in a single volume containing all his derisive reflections on life.

Antiauthoritarian, grumpy, charming, politically incorrect, funny, drunk and always mischievous, Bernard could usually be found at the Coach and Horses pub on London’s Greek street, a lit cigarette in his mouth and a drink in hand.

He was joined by famous friends including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Graham Green, Peter O’Toole, Ian Fleming and many others and their conversations – as well as with whomever was tending bar at the time – served as the basis for his writing. There were in fact times when he was too drunk to write, hence the famous "unwell" notice that went next to the large, hastily-sketched cartoon that filled its space in the magazine.

I, Hogarth

Hogarth’s epoch-defining paintings and engravings, such as Gin Lane and The Rake’s Progress, are renowned. He was London’s painter par excellence, and supplies the most enduring vision of the eighteenth century’s ebullience, enjoyments and social iniquities. From his lifelong marriage to Jane Thornhill, his inability to have children, his time as one of England’s best portrait painters, his old age and unfortunate dip into politics, and ultimately his death, I, Hogarth is the artist’s life through his very own eyes.

Recommended for readers of Peter Ackroyd and Hilary Mantel, this novel charts Hogarth’s personal story in four parts carefully blending the facts of his life with fiction, beginning with a childhood spent in a debtor’s prison and ending with his death in the arms of his wife.

Stanley and Elsie

The First World War is over, and in a quiet Hampshire village, artist Stanley Spencer is working on the commission of a lifetime, painting an entire chapel in memory of a life lost in the war to end all wars. Combining his own traumatic experiences with moments of everyday redemption, the chapel will become his masterpiece.

When Elsie Munday arrives to take up position as housemaid to the Spencer family, her life quickly becomes entwined with the charming and irascible Stanley, his artist wife Hilda and their tiny daughter Shirin.

As the years pass, Elsie does her best to keep the family together even when love, obsession and temptation seem set to tear them apart…

Young Michelangelo

This is a long-awaited and authoritative reinterpretation of the early life and career of arguably the greatest artist in history. Author John T. Spike surveys Michelangelo’s early life from birth to his early thirties, probing the thinking, artistic evolution and yearnings of a young man thoroughly convinced of his own exceptional talent. Spike explores Michelangelo’s involvement in the most troubling controversies of his age, and recreates Florence and Rome with vivid sketches of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Leonardo, Julius II and Machiavelli. This is a prodigiously informative and compelling account that will fulfil the need for a major Michelangelo biography for this generation and many to come.

My Life in France: ‘exuberant, affectionate and boundlessly charming’ New York Times

When Julia Child arrived in Paris in 1948, ‘a six-foot-two-inch, thirty-six-year-old, rather loud and unserious Californian’, she barely spoke a word of French and didn’t know the first thing about cooking.

As she fell in love with French culture – buying food at local markets, sampling the local bistros, and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu – her life began to change forever. We follow her extraordinary transformation from kitchen ingénue to internationally renowned (and internationally loved) expert in French cuisine.

Bursting with Child’s adventurous and humorous spirit, My Life in France captures post-war Paris with wonderful vividness and charm.

***PRAISE FOR MY LIFE IN FRANCE***

‘Whether you have [seen Julie & Julia] or not, you must read this charming, eccentric memoir from Julia Child, a towering figure in the world of cookery’ Independent on Sunday

‘This idiosyncratic and engaging book captures perfectly Child’s innocent introduction to the world of French food… a delightful read, full of wickedly dry wit, mouth-watering descriptions of food and drink and a joie de vivre that is positively infectious’ Daily Mail

‘Child’s exuberant, affectionate and boundlessly charming account… chronicles, in mouth-watering detail, the meals and the food markets that sparked her interest in French cooking, and her growing appreciation of all things French’ New York Times

‘Luscious… the large-as-life presence of Julia Child looms on every page‘ Washington Times

Lively, infectious… Her elegant but unfussy prose pulls the reader into her stories’ Chicago Sun Times

Captivating… her marvellously distinctive voice is present on every page’ San Francisco Chronicle

Houdini & Conan Doyle

In the early 20th century, in the English-speaking world, Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini were two of the most feted and famous men alive. And their relationship is extraordinary: As strange as it may seem Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the ultra-rational detective Sherlock Holmes, was a believer in Spiritualism. He came to his belief, that one could communicate with the dead, after his son was killed in World War I, and became an expert in the field. Harry Houdini, the world’s foremost magician, was a friend of Conan Doyle’s, but was sceptical of his belief in the supernatural. Houdini took every opportunity to use his knowledge of illusion to expose psychics who he thought were fakes, particularly incensed by their exploitation of grief and insecurity. Based on original research, this sensational dual biography of two popular geniuses conjures up the early 20th century and the fame, personality and competing beliefs.

Effie

‘A joy to read – a wonderful, rich book.’ Dame Emma Thompson

The scandalous love triangle at the heart of the Victorian art world. Effie Gray, a Scottish beauty, was the heroine of a great Victorian love story. Married at nineteen to John Ruskin, she found herself trapped in a loveless and unconsummated union. When her husband invited his protégé John Everett Millais away on holiday, she and Millais fell in love. Effie would inspire some of Millais’s most haunting images, and embody Victorian society’s fears about female sexuality.

Effie risked everything by leaving Ruskin. She hoped to find fulfilment as Millais’s wife, becoming a society hostess and manager of his studio, but controversy and tragedy continued to stalk her. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effie’s family letters and diaries to reveal the reality behind the scandalous love-triangle. She shows the rise and fall of the Pre-Raphaelite circle from a new perspective, through the eyes of a woman who was intimately involved in the private and public lives of its two greatest figures. Effie’s charm and ambition helped to shape the careers of both her husbands. Effie is a compelling portrait of the extraordinary woman behind some of the most famous Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

Elvis Has Left the Building

The King departed this world during the month of punk Rock’s apotheosis. Punk had set out to destroy Elvis, or at least everything he came to represent, but never got the chance. Elvis destroyed himself before anyone else could.

Nearly forty years after his death, Rock’s ultimate legend and prototype just won’t go away and his influence and legacy are to be found not just in music today, but the world over. Elvis Presley has permeated the modern world in ways that are bizarre and inexplicable: a pop icon while he was alive, he has become almost a religious icon in death, a modern-day martyr crucified on the wheel of drugs, celebrity culture, junk food and sex.

In Elvis Has Left the Building, Dylan Jones takes us back to those heady days around the time of his death and the rise of punk. He evokes the hysteria and devotion of The King’s numerous disciples and imitators, offering a uniquely insightful commentary on Elvis’s life, times and outrageous demise. This is a fresh account, written with the authors customary panache, recounting how Elvis single-handedly changed the course of popular music and culture, and what his death meant and still means to us today.

Sick in the Head

Before becoming one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Judd Apatow was the original comedy nerd. At fifteen, he took a job washing dishes in a local comedy club-just so he could watch endless stand-up for free. At sixteen, he was hosting a show for his local high school radio station in Syosset, Long Island-a show that consisted of Q&As with his comedy heroes, from Garry Shandling to Jerry Seinfeld. Thirty years later, Apatow is still that same comedy nerd-and he’s still interviewing funny people about why they do what they do. Sick in the Head gathers Apatow’s most memorable and revealing conversations into one hilarious, wide-ranging and incredibly candid collection. Here are the comedy legends who inspired and shaped him, the contemporaries he grew up with in Hollywood, and the brightest stars in comedy today, from Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Martin to Chris Rock, Seth Rogen and Lena Dunham. Sick in the Head is Apatow’s gift to comedy nerds everywhere.