Category: DNBF

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.

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.

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.