Category Archives: biography

Mary S. Lovell, “A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby”

So why should you read the biography of someone you’ve never heard of? Because you’re interested in the period, I suppose, or in the place where that person lived. Because you admire the work of the biographer, certainly. Or a … Continue reading

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Mary Blume, “The Master of Us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World”

I’m going to start with a quotation here, and if you don’t like it you can just move on, because while I adored The Master of Us All, not every reader wants to devote a few hours to a long-dead … Continue reading

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Mark Seal, “Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa”

Yes, another Africa book, but a more contemporary one. When I was in the Kenyan town of Naivasha about a month ago, we drove past a long stretch of sturdy iron fencing that had the initials “JR” worked into the … Continue reading

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Frances Osborne, “The Bolter”

I didn’t want to like Idina Sackville, the “bolter” of the title. How could I? On page 18 of the book is a heartbreaking photo of two little boys, Idina’s sons Gerard and David, whom she left in their father’s … Continue reading

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Even More on “Downton Abbey,” This Time Adding Edith Wharton

This week I spent some time chatting with Pat Ryan of the New York Times who was assigned to write a nifty story for the New York Times about some sites in New York that were reminiscent of Edith Wharton. … Continue reading

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Caroline Moorehead, “Dancing to the Precipice”

Lucie Dillon de la Tour du Pin has been vaguely on my radar for a long time; her memoirs show up in  bibliographies when you’re reading about pre-Revolutionary Versailles, or for that matter, about the revolution itself — or even Napoleonic … Continue reading

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Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith, “Van Gogh: The Life”

Phew! Sorry — but really, who doesn’t feel relief upon finishing a volume that runs 870 pages? I read a paper-bound galley of Van Gogh: The Life and had a hard time just managing its physical bulk. This is not a … Continue reading

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Sarah Bakewell, “How to Live”

With Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live, I have strayed pretty far from my comfort zone. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction and I rarely wander beyond the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But I was attracted by a friend’s recommendation, … Continue reading

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Laura Hillenbrand, “Unbroken”

There is no story without conflict. We can all agree on that. Another theory, widely accepted, is that extreme pressure reveals character, but I’m no longer sure I buy it. After having seen Louie Zamperini through 47 days afloat on … Continue reading

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Stacy Schiff, “Cleopatra”

I don’t read a lot of biographies, but if more of them were like Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra, that would change. On the other hand, it’s hard to know how there could be more biographies like this, because what Schiff does … Continue reading

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