I am Dynamite! : A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Alpha males in print tend to be omega males in real life. Friedrich Nietzsche was not rich during his lifetime. He had one job, at the University of Basel, teaching a subject he disliked. The books that he considered his real work went out on small publishers at a return of…

The Real Enid Blyton by Nadia Cohen

Reviewed by Elaine Simpson-Long When I was a little girl I used to receive the latest Famous Five book by Enid Blyton every Christmas. I am pretty sure my mum bought these as it guaranteed that I would be nice and quiet for a few hours in the afternoon as I sat and read it…

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender

Reviewed by Gill Davies Lulah Ellender’s book – subtitled “A Family Story” – is part biography, part family history, and it includes reflections on her own family which gradually emerge from the broader narrative. At its centre is the life and early death of her grandmother, Elisabeth Knatchbull-Hugessen, who was born in 1915 into an upper-middle-class English…

The World Broke in Two by Sam Goldstein

Reviewed by Harriet This enthralling multiple biography is subtitled ‘Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and the year that changed literature’. The year is 1922, and the claim is a large one which can only be fully substantiated by referring to writers who are not major players here: in that year, James Joyce…

Nightshade Upon Magic: Craig Brown’s Ma’am Darling

Reviewed by Max Dunbar The online OED defines starstruck as ‘Fascinated or greatly impressed by famous people, especially those connected with the cinema or the theatre.’ There are variations – in the HBO Western Deadwood, hardass bar-keep Al Swearengen uses an expression ‘c***struck’ to describe, I think, a man lost in love or lust. A…

Aphra Behn: A Secret Life by Janet Todd

Reviewed by Harriet ‘Aphra Behn was a woman who wore masks’. So says Janet Todd at the beginning of this monumental, newly revised biography of Behn, who was a prolific dramatist, poet, novelist and translator, and ‘the first English woman to earn her living solely by her pen’. Born sometime between 1637 and 1643 (though…

The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington by Joanna Moorhead

Reviewed by Karen Langley This year is the centenary of the birth of author and artist Leonora Carrington, and we’re being treated to a wonderful array of issues and reissues to celebrate that fact. However, Carrington has often spent years out of the limelight quietly plying her trade, and it’s only because of the determination…

David Jones by Thomas Dilworth

Reviewed by Rob Spence Ask a reasonably well-educated person to name some Anglophone modernist poets, and you are sure to hear the names of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Mention might be made of the Imagist poets, such as F.S. Flint, ‘HD’, and Richard Aldington; you may hear a case made for D.H. Lawrence or…

Molly Keane A Life by Sally Phipps

Reviewed by Hayley Anderton From the moment I discovered Molly Keane it was love, not just for the quality of her writing, the unflattering but compelling sharpness of her observations, or her humour, but also because she’s one of very few to have chronicled the Anglo-Irish society that was just clinging on between the wars.…