Category: D

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.

Wilde’s Women

‘A remarkable book… the breadth and depth of research is astonishing’ Emma Thompson

‘An illuminating study… fascinating’ Independent

Hailed as a gay icon and pioneer of individualism, Oscar Wilde’s insistence that ‘there should be no law for anybody’ made him a staunch defender of gender equality. Throughout his life from his relationship to his extraordinary mother Jane and the tragedy of his sister Isola’s early death to his accomplished wife Constance and a coterie of other free-thinking writers, actors and artists, women were a central aspect of his life and career. Wilde’s Women is the first book to tell the story of his female friends and colleagues who traded witticisms with Wilde but also give him access to vital publicity and whose ideas he gave expression through his social comedies.

Author Eleanor Fitzsimons reframes Wilde’s story and his legacy through the women in his life including such fascinating figures as Florence Balcombe who left him for Bram Stoker, actress Lillie Langtry (for a while an inseparable friend) and his tragic and witty niece Dolly who bore a strong resemblance to the writer and loved fast cars, cocaine and foreign women.

Full of fascinating detail and anecdotes Wilde’s Women relates the untold story of how the writer played a vitally sympathetic role on behalf of many women and how they supported him in the midst of a Victorian society in the process of changing forever.