Cultural & Literary Biographies
This is the first ever biography of Joan Leigh Fermor - a social beauty, professional photographer and muse who made a huge cultural impact during the 1930s.
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Although her husband, the author and soldier Patrick Leigh Fermor, has been written about extensively, little is known about Joan. This book, written by acclaimed archivist Simon Fenwick, reveals her to be a woman who defied the social conventions of the times and how, despite her family's wealthy status, she managed to earn her own living.
Joan met and mingled with some of the leading lights of 1930s bohemia including John Betjeman, Evelyn Waugh and Maurice Bowra and was a regular feature in gossip columns for her affairs, fashion and travels.
This book covers her marriages and fall-outs and reveals her to be a highly intellectual and sexual woman who lived life to the full, no matter what the consequences.
Charles Spencer's thrilling sequel to Killer of the King tells an old story with new eyes as it recalls the manhunt for Charles II that followed the rebellion that spurred his father's beheading in 1649.
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A true story packed with action and adventure, Spencer has thoroughly researched the events and uses Samuel Pepys account to reveal what happened.
He explains how Charles relied on a variety of hiding places to hide Catholics from lethal persecution while on the run from Oliver Cromwell's armies and how in the 1650s, they returned the favour by saving his life...
Tying in with the second series of ITV's hit drama series, Victoria, this book provides an in-depth look at the passionate and complicated relationship the Queen embarked on with Prince Albert.
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Both Victoria and Albert were both strong-willed and although they were brought together by an arranged marriage, this did not dampen the spark between them. They were first cousins but could not have had more different personalities - she was impulsive and emotional while he was cautious and logical. They were a very successful couple and this book looks at the differences between their public persona and their private lives.
Based on the couple's letters and diaries, this book provides a tantalising glimpse into the life of the couple . It's full of rich historical detail and gives insight into this incredible relationship.
There are also character profiles, interviews with actors and an overview of the production, costumes and props of the show.
Written by historian Chris Skidmore, Richard III reveals how the last Plantagenet king was one of the most significant figures from medieval times and how his actions and behaviour underlined the true nature of power during this era.
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Richard III is one of the most famous and controversial monarchs of all time. A loyal and dedicated nobleman, his personality was forged by experiences in exile and in combat. He was ambitious and successful and stunned the nation when he seized the throne and disinherited his nephews following the death of his brother, Edward IV.
His two-year reign would end up being tumultuous and terrifying, culminating in his death on the battlefield at Bosworth. This extensively researched biography highlights Richard III as his contemporaries knew him...
Dare Not Linger is a fascinating, thought-provoking and poignant biography of Nelson Mandela's time as president of South Africa. It draws on Mandela's writings during this time and has been completed by Mandla Langa and features a prologue from Mandela's widow, Graca Machel.
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In 1994, Mandela became the first president of democratic South Africa and in his five years in office, he managed to transform a nation that had been divided by centuries of colonialism and apartheid into a fully functioning democracy where everyone was considered equal.
Mandela kept many detailed notes during his time in charge and this fascinating book reveals how he and his team changed SA for the better. It shows all of the challenges he had to overcome in his quest to achieve his dream of a liberated South Africa.
Rebecca Stott's In the Days of Rain is the Costa Biography Award Winner 2017
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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...
Judith Flanders, an acclaimed social historian, looks over the history of Christmas in this cracking book. She reveals how the holiday has always mainly been about food, drink, revelry and presents.
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Among the jaw-dropping facts you'll learn are the reasons why people kiss under mistletoe, how Rudolph came to pull Santa's sleigh and how Coca Cola influenced the aesthetic.
Perfect for anyone who loves all things Christmassy, this book also reveals when Christmas wrapping paper was first introduced (it's later than you think!) and that Hogmanay actually originates from France!
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.
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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.
On 15 April 1989, the world witnessed one of the worst football disasters occur at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. 96 people were crushed to death and another 766 injured in a tragedy that was later admitted to have been exacerbated by police failures.
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Written by Kevin Sampson - a man who was actually in the stands on that fateful day and who has close connections with the Justice campaign - this book contains exhaustive and exclusive interviews with people who have become familiar public figures and many who are telling their heart-rending stories for the first time.
From the tragic events of the day itself to the shocking aftermath that has taken years to resolve, this book interweaves the views of the people who were there with the families and friends of those who died, along with the observations of the people who played key roles in the long search for the truth.
The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta made headlines across the world in 2015 and this biography provides a compelling portrait of King John, the supposed tyrant leader who issued - and consequently rejected - the famous document that bound him and his successors to better behaviour.
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Extensively researched and written by Marc Morris, author of A Great and Terrible King and The Norman Conquest, the book examines whether King John was the familiar figure we all know from Robin Hood - a monarch who was greedy, cowardly, despicable and cruel.
Throughout the book, the historian draws on contemporary chronicles and the king's own letters to show what John was really like. He argues he was dynamic, inventive and relentless, but also a very flawed individual whose rise to power involved treachery, rebellion and murder.
The book also looks at the invasions by Wales, Scotland and Ireland that occurred under John's reign and the civil war and foreign invasion that brought upon his downfall.
AAITD 14 years +14 years +
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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In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London's Bond Street and set about the delicate business of match-making. Drawing on the bureau's extensive archives, Penrose Halson - who many years later found herself the proprietor of the bureau - tells their story, and those of their clients. We meet a remarkable cross-section of British society in the 1940s: gents with a 'merry twinkle', potential fifth-columnists, nervous spinsters, isolated farmers seeking 'a nice quiet affekshunate girl' and girls looking 'exactly' like Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh, all desperately longing to find 'The One'. And thanks to Heather and Mary, they almost always did just that. A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after the war, Marriages Are Made in Bond Street is a heart-warming, touching and thoroughly absorbing account of a world gone by.
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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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Boy, Roald Dahl's bestselling autobiography, is full of hilarious anecdotes about his childhood and school days, illustrated by Quentin Blake. As a boy, all sorts of unusual things happened to Roald Dahl. There was the time he and four school friends got their revenge on beastly Mrs Prachett in her sweet shop. There are stories of holidays in fishing boats, African adventures and the days of tasting chocolate for Cadbury's. You'll hear tales of horrible school bullies and the motor-car accident when Roald's nose was nearly sliced clean off...Roald Dahl vividly shares his memories; some are funny. Some are painful. Some are unpleasant. All are true. This reissue, in brand new Roald Dahl branding, includes 30 delightful line drawings by the inimitable Quentin Blake. You can listen to all of Roald Dahl's stories on Puffin Audiobooks, read by some very famous voices, including Kate Winslet, David Walliams and Steven Fry - and there are added squelchy sound effects from Pinewood Studios! Also look out for new Roald Dahl apps in the App store and Google Play- including the disgusting Twit or Miss! and House of Twits inspired by the revolting Twits.
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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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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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