Cultural & Literary Biographies

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    Bookworms and literature lovers will delve into this compendium full of over 100 biographies of the world's greatest writers including Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    Each author, playwright and poet's profile is accompanied by a stunning portrait and a critical evaluation of their key ideas, themes and techniques.

    From the Middle Ages through to contemporary writers, this book offers a captivating insight into the lives, loves and influences of a number of extraordinary writers.
  • In the Days of Rain - Hardback - 9780008209162 - Rebecca Stott
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    Rebecca Stott's In the Days of Rain is the Costa Biography Award Winner 2017

    Rebecca Stott's In the Days of Rain is a fascinating yet shocking memoir about her experiences growing up in - and breaking away from - a fundamentalist Christian cult.

    Any readers who were left stunned and captivated by Bad Blood and Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal will find themselves fully immersed in this incredible true story. Rebecca recalls how her father begged her to help him write a memoir while on his deathbed. He wanted to talk about his family's experiences in a fundamentalist Christian sect but every time he reached a certain point, the painful memories all became too much.

    The sect were a closed community who believed the world is ruled by Satan and lived by a number of strict rules - women had to wear headscarves and any non-sect books were banned. Although Rebecca was born into the sect, she needed to know more about their culture and asked intelligent yet dangerous questions while growing up. She soon discovered her father, an influential preacher, had been asking the same questions.

    Here Rebecca talks about her father's ongoing struggle between faith and doubt and how this affected their relationship and livelihood for a long time after breaking away...
  • The Story of Beatrix Potter - Hardback - 9781909881808 - Sarah Gristwood
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    As well as being the creator of classic characters including Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and Squirrel Nutkin, Beatrix Potter lived an extraordinary life of her own.

    This biography from Sarah Gristwood unveils just how extraordinary Beatrix's life was. Describing her as a woman of contradictions (a sheltered Victorian daughter who grew into an astute modern businesswoman; a talented artist who became a scientific expert; a famous author who gave everything up to be a farmer...), this book follows the key turning points in Beatrix's life.

    From her brief first engagement to her happy second marriage and how she drew inspiration from her childhood pets and beloved locations in the Lake District, this book also explores Beatrix's last 30 years - when she abandoned books and worked as a farmer and conservationist, saving thousands of acres of the Lake District that still thrive today.
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    Maya Angelou's six volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration. In this first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother's lover. 'I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it's like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again' Maya Angelou
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    Peter Ackroyd's marvellous biography is a living attempt to reach into the heart of Shakespeare.He creates an intimate and immediate connection with his subject, so that the book reads like the work of a contemporary - meeting Shakespeare afresh on his own ground.Written with intuition and imagination unique to Peter Ackroyd, this is a book by a writer about a writer, and a fascinating and detailed depiction of the world Shakespeare inhabited.
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    "At the conclusion of my discussions with one group of the Magdalene Women one of those present sang 'Whispering Hope'. A line from that song stays in my mind - 'when the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day'. Let me hope that this day and this debate heralds a new dawn for all those who feared that the dark midnight might never end." Taoiseach Enda Kenny's State apology to the Magdalene women. On 19 February 2013 the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny apologized to the women who had been incarcerated in Ireland's Magdalene laundries. In the audience sat Steven O'Riordan, a documentary filmmaker and founder of the charity Magdalene Survivors Together. And by his side, waiting patiently for the words they'd been fighting to hear, were some of the women he had helped. For Nancy, Kathleen, Diane, Marie and Marina were confined in Magdalene laundries throughout Ireland during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The harrowing physical and psychological abuse they endured in the institutions, run on behalf of the State, led to a lifetime of shame and secrecy. Now, in WHISPERING HOPE, these women tell their stories for the first time. Their fight for justice and forged friendships has enabled them to move forward and have their voices heard, their individual accounts weaving together in an immensely powerful narrative that shines a light on a dark chapter in Ireland's history. Inspirational and moving, this is the story of five women brave enough to confront their past and strong enough to not let it define them.
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    'Not since Dickens has a writer had so many readers by the throat ...King's imagination is vast. He knows how to engage the deepest sympathies of his readers ...It is part biography, part collection of tips for the aspiring writer. In the final chapters, King tells, in graphic details, the story of his recent accident ...a bizarre and absorbing story, told brillinatly by one of the great storytellers of our time' - GuardianIn June of 1999, Stephen King was hit by a van while walking along the shoulder of a country road in Maine. Six operations were required to save his life and mend his broken body. When he was finally able to sit up, he immediately started writing. This book is the extraordinary result.
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    Although Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee had been reading each other's books for years, the two writers did not meet until February 2008. Not long after, Auster received a letter from Coetzee, suggesting they begin exchanging letters on a regular basis and, "God willing, strike sparks off each other". "Here and Now" is the result of that proposal: an epistolary dialogue between two great writers who became great friends. Over three years their letters touched on nearly every subject, from sports to fatherhood, film festivals to incest, philosophy to politics, from the financial crisis to art, family, marriage, friendship, and love. Their correspondence offers an intimate and often amusing portrait of these two men as they explore the complexities of the here and now and is a reflection of two sharp intellects whose pleasure in each other's friendship is apparent on every page.
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    Best known today as a fine composer, the twelfth-century German abbess Hildegard of Bingen was also a religious leader and visionary, a poet, naturalist and writer of medical treatises. Despite her cloistered life she had strong, often controversial views on sex, love and marriage too - a woman astonishing in her own age, whose book of apocalyptic visions, Scivias, would alone have been enough to ensure her lasting fame. In this classic and highly praised biography - first published by Headline in 2001 - distinguished writer and journalist, Fiona Maddocks, draws on Hildegard's prolific writings to paint a portrait of her extraordinary life against the turbulent medieval background of crusade and schism, scientific discovery and cultural revolution. The great intellectual gifts and forceful character that emerge make her as fascinating as any figure in the Middle Ages. More than 800 years after her death, Pope Benedict XVI has made Hildegard a Saint and a Doctor of the Church (one of only four women). Fiona Maddocks has provided a short new preface to cover these tributes to an extraordinary and exceptional woman.
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    This short biography of William Shakespeare by world famous writer Bill Bryson brims with the author's inimitable wit and intelligence. Shakespeare's life, despite the scrutiny of generations of biographers and scholars, is still a thicket of myths and traditions, some preposterous, some conflicting, arranged around the few scant facts known about the Bard -- from his birth in Stratford to the bequest of his second best bed to his wife when he died. Following his international bestsellers 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' and 'The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid', Bill Bryson has written a short biography of William Shakespeare for the Eminent Lives series -- which seeks to pair great subjects with writers known for their strong sensibilities and sharp, lively points of view.
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    James Shapiro
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    This work presents an intimate history of Shakespeare, following him through a single year that changed not only his fortunes, but the course of literature. How did Shakespeare go from being a talented poet and playwright to become one of the greatest writers who ever lived? In this one exhilarating year, we follow what he reads and writes, what he saw, and who he worked with as he invests in the new Globe theatre and creates four of his most famous plays - "Henry V", "Julius Caesar", "As You Like It", and, most remarkably, "Hamlet". This book brings the news, intrigue and flavour of the times together with wonderful detail about how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright, to create an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.
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    This title was shortlisted for the 2015 Costa Biography Award. This is the secret story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Wonderland is part of our cultural heritage. But beneath the fairy tale lies the complex history of the author and his subject. Charles Dodgson was a quiet academic but his second self, Lewis Carroll, was a storyteller, innovator and avid collector of 'child-friends'. Carroll's imagination was to give Alice Liddell, his 'dream-child', a fictional alter ego that would never let her grow up. This is a biography that beautifully unravels the magic of Alice. It is a history of love and loss, innocence and ambiguity. It is the story of one man's need to make a Wonderland in a changing world.
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    As Read On BBC Radio 4. "A gripping account of the heartbreaks and triumphs of two of history's most formidable female intellectuals, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Gordon has reunited mother and daughter through biography, beautifully weaving their narratives for the first time." (Amanda Foreman English feminist). Mary Wollstonecraft and author Mary Shelley were mother and daughter, yet these two extraordinary women never knew one another. Nevertheless, their passionate and pioneering lives remained closely intertwined, their choices, dreams and tragedies eerily similar. Both Marys became famous writers, fell in love with brilliant but impossible men, and were single mothers out of wedlock; both lived in exile, fought for their position in society and thought deeply about how we should live. They also broke every rigid convention thrust upon them: Wollstonecraft chased pirates in Scandinavia and sailed to Paris to witness the Revolution. Shelley eloped in a fishing boat with a married man and faced down bandits in Naples. Wollstonecraft proclaimed that women's liberty should matter to everyone. Not only did Wollstonecraft pen the landmark book, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, her work ignited Romanticism, inspiring a whole new generation of writers, including her daughter. At just nineteen years old, Mary travelled around Italy with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, and there wrote Frankenstein. Having pushed the boundaries of the literary form, she went on to become the editor of her husband's poetry - a feat of scholarship that established his posthumous reputation. For the first time, Romantic Outlaws brings together a pair of visionary women who should have shared a life, but who instead share a powerful literary and feminist legacy. This is inventive, illuminating, involving biography at its best.
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    Raised motherless on remote Yorkshire moors, watching five beloved siblings sicken and die, haunted by unrequited love: Charlotte Bronte's life has all the drama and tragedy of the great Gothic novels it inspired. Charlotte was a literary visionary, a feminist trailblazer and the driving force behind the whole Bronte family. She pushed Emily to publish Wuthering Heights and took charge of their precarious finances when her feckless brother turned to opium. In Jane Eyre she introduced the world to a brand new kind of heroine, modelled on herself: quiet but fiercely intelligent, burning with passion and potential. This is a truly gripping and illuminating account of one of our best-loved novelists.
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    With an introduction by Simon Callow Judgements about the quality of works of art begin in opinion. But for the last two hundred years only the wilfully perverse (and Tolstoy) have denied the validity of the opinion that Shakespeare was a genius. Who was Shakespeare? Why has his writing endured? And what makes it so endlessly adaptable to different times and cultures? Exploring Shakespeare's life, including questions of authorship and autobiography, and charting how his legacy has grown over the centuries, this extraordinary book asks how Shakespeare has come to be such a powerful symbol of genius. Written with lively passion and wit, The Genius of Shakespeare is a fascinating biography of the life - and afterlife - of our greatest poet. Jonathan Bate, one of the world's leading Shakespearean scholars, has shown how the legend of Shakespeare's genius was created and sustained, and how the man himself became a truly global phenomenon. 'The best modern book on Shakespeare' Sir Peter Hall
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    SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE 'Gripping and at times ineffably sad, this book would be poetic even without the poetry. It will be the standard biography of Ted Hughes for a long time to come' Sunday Times 'Seldom has the life of a writer rattled along with such furious activity ...A moving, fascinating biography' The Times Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. He is one of Britain's most important poets, a poet of claws and cages: Jaguar, Hawk and Crow. Event and animal are turned to myth in his work. Yet he is also a poet of deep tenderness, of restorative memory steeped in the English literary tradition. A poet of motion and force, of rivers, light and redemption, of beasts in brooding landscapes. With an equal gift for poetry and prose, and with a soul as capacious as any poet who has lived, he was also a prolific children's writer and has been hailed as the greatest English letter-writer since John Keats. With his magnetic personality and an insatiable appetite for friendship, for love and for life, he also attracted more scandal than any poet since Lord Byron. At the centre of the book is Hughes's lifelong quest to come to terms with the suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath, the saddest and most infamous moment in the public history of modern poetry. Ted Hughes left behind him a more complete archive of notes and journals than any other major poet, including thousands of pages of drafts, unpublished poems and memorandum books that make up an almost complete record of Hughes's inner life, preserved by him for posterity. Renowned scholar Sir Jonathan Bate has spent five years in his archives, unearthing a wealth of new material. His book offers for the first time the full story of Ted Hughes's life as it was lived, remembered and reshaped in his art. It is a book that honours, though not uncritically, Ted Hughes's poetry and the art of life-writing, approached by his biographer with an honesty answerable to Hughes's own.
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    Readers have fallen in love with the tale of James and Bob, a street cat James found abandoned in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation and now James Bowen is back with the follow-up to A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob with a touching festive story of the inseparable pair titled A Gift from Bob.

    Looking back at the last Christmas they spent scraping a living together on the streets of London, the book details how Bob helped James through one of his toughest times by providing him with strength, friendship and inspiration - while also teaching him an important lesson about the true meaning of Christmas.

    An extraordinary real-life tale of the transcendence of friendship and love, A Gift from Bob is the ideal Christmas gift for anyone who has fallen for the pair's earlier books or for those who simply adore animals.
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    Claire Tomalin brings her extraordinary gifts of scholarship, fluent writing and empathy for her subjects to bear on one of our greatest, and most elusive, novelists. Widely acclaimed as the finest of Austen biographies, the book offers us "a brave, sharp-tongued character who fairly bounces off the page". (Val Hennesy). And along the way it gives us an "authoratative, graceful,succinct account of a wide swathe of English society which brilliantly illuminates' the novelist". (Victoria Glendinning).
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    This is a beautiful new edition of Laurie Lee's celebrated autobiographical trilogy: Cider with Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War. 'I was set down from the carrier's cart at the age of three; and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began.' 'This trilogy is a sequence of early recollections, beginning with the dazzling lights and sounds of my first footings on earth in a steep Cotswold valley some three miles long. For nineteen years this was the limit of my world, then one midsummer morning I left home and walked to London and down the blazing length of Spain during the innocent days of the early thirties. Never had I felt so fat with time, so free to go where I would. Then such indulgence was suddenly broken by the savage outbreak of the Civil War..." (Laurie Lee).
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    The ground-breaking biography of one of Britain's best-loved and best-selling novelists. Georgette Heyer remains an enduring international bestseller, read and loved by four generations of readers and extolled by today's bestselling authors. Despite her enormous popularity she never gave an interview or appeared in public. Georgette Heyer wrote her first novel, The Black Moth, when she was seventeen in order to amuse her convalescent brother. It was published in 1921 to instant success and it has never been out of print. A phenomenon even in her own lifetime, to this day she is the undisputed queen of regency romance. During ten years of research into Georgette Heyer's life and writing, Jennifer Kloester has had unlimited access to Heyer's notebooks and private papers and the Heyer family records, and exclusive access to several untapped archives of Heyer's early letters.
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    Published posthumously in 1964, "A Moveable Feast" remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. Since Hemingway's personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined and debated the changes made to the text before publication. Now this new special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published. Featuring a personal foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest's sole surviving son, and an introduction by the editor and grandson of the author, Sean Hemingway, this new edition also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-published Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son Jack and his first wife, Hadley. Also included are irreverent portraits of other luminaries, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Madox Ford, and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. Sure to excite critics and readers alike, the restored edition of "A Moveable Feast" brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the unbridled creativity and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomised.
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    Maeve Binchy's heart-warming tales of love, life and loss made her one of Ireland's most celebrated writers. Seared with a truth and honesty that leapt from the page, her books captured the imagination and loyalty of millions of readers, for whom there was no greater storyteller. In his bestselling biography, Piers Dudgeon gives a privileged insight into a life at once so familiar and yet so extraordinary, played against the backdrop of her favourite character: Ireland. Here, Maeve, who always had so much love to give, experienced the agonies of growing up the girl that nobody wanted to dance with, and the student who could never live up to her parents' hopes. Here, finally, she came to question the dogma that surrounded her, and found her own path, liberated from the narrow rules of convention. Maeve Binchy: The Biography reveals her triumphant struggle, and presents a powerful tribute to a phenomenal storytelling talent.
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    From Claire Tomalin, bestselling author of "Samuel Pepys", comes "Charles Dickens", the definitive biography of our greatest novelist who brought us "Great Expectations", "Oliver Twist", "A Christmas Carol", "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Nicholas Nickleby" - for fans of Peter Ackroyd "Charles Dickens" was a phenomenon: a demonicly hardworking journalist, the father of ten children, a tireless walker and traveller, a supporter of liberal social causes, but most of all a great novelist - the creator of characters who live immortally in the English imagination: the Artful Dodger, Mr Pickwick, Pip, David Copperfield, Little Nell, Lady Dedlock, and many more. At the age of twelve he was sent to work in a blacking factory by his affectionate but feckless parents. From these unpromising beginnings, he rose to scale all the social and literary heights, entirely through his own efforts. When he died, the world mourned, and he was buried - against his wishes - in Westminster Abbey. Yet the brilliance concealed a divided character: a republican, he disliked America; sentimental about the family in his writings, he took up passionately with a young actress; usually generous, he cut off his impecunious children. "Charles Dickens: A Life" paints an unforgettable portrait of Dickens, capturing brilliantly the complex character of this great genius. "By far the most humane and imaginatively sympathetic account yet for the general reader". (Amanda Craig, "New Statesman"). "Flawless ...fascinating". (William Boyd, "Observer"). Claire Tomalin is the author of seven highly acclaimed biographies, including "Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self", which was the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year. Her previous book on Dickens, "The Invisible Woman", an account of his relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan, won three major literary prizes. A former literary editor of the "New Statesman" and the "Sunday Times", she is married to the playright and novelist Michael Frayn.