PositiveFinancial Times (UK)In this second volume, which covers the years from 1968 to Freud’s death in 2011 at the age of 88, Feaver himself becomes a significant character, always (it seems) at the artist’s elbow, inserting his own first-person recollections and opinions, quoting his own reviews and articles, retailing his own conversations and impressions. Not so much apostle and amanuensis: more like a permanent shadow ... These final years are a catalogue of shows, which Freud, now suffering from cancer, is usually too frail to attend, of deals and parties and chat — but the book slows up considerably. It’s the only point at which its huge bulk feels onerous. But if its length often seems indulgent, it’s surely appropriate to its expansive, brilliant subject and his lust for life. And if Feaver is sometimes too forgiving of Freud’s failings, in this magnificent book he is also adept at conveying the painter’s infectious joie de vivre.
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)\"We look in vain for anger or defiance, or a self-worth that repudiates his treatment of her: as often with this book, we are torn between fury on her behalf and fury at her complicity ... This book has a prologue that is a sort of self-justification: about the artist’s need for space and privacy, which meant that Frank could not live with her, that her husband to this day does not have a key to her flat. Self-Portrait seems a long-delayed correction of that power balance: she is her own sitter now; Freud will appear as a part of her life, rather than she being perpetually a part of his. In this last aim, I’m not sure she succeeds. Even so, the book takes on a significance beyond a personal story that is often pathetic and sometimes grubby. It puts yet another twist to our view of Freud: a man of his time, perhaps, but (we think) not of our own. And it turns into a sort of myth about the misuse of fame and the male ego, about the struggles faced by creative women, about the body in all its guises. Like a myth, it unfolds with confusions and contradictions, a terrible inevitability and many, many discomfiting truths.
PositiveThe Financial Times\"It is rare that a subject’s voice rings so clearly through his own biography, and its salty, bragging, screw-you tone, its barbed humour and sudden darts into seriousness, fleet as a fish, are among the main pleasures of this book ... The book’s method soon becomes clear: a giant up-piling of quotes and anecdotes, random or fabulous, slightly indiscriminate but hugely entertaining, biographer and subject in a sort of collusion to create the legend ... there is the sense, well conveyed by Feaver, of how viscerally Freud’s more significant women were bound into the growth of his practice as an artist ... As the art gets going in earnest — and Feaver is good on the chilly, ruthless seriousness that Freud brought to his work — the writer’s deep background as a critic shines through, although his incisive understanding of the paintings is sometimes riffed rather fruitily and indulgently ... In this book, though never shirking the facts that would have made Freud a monster of the #MeToo era, Feaver remains resolutely unjudgmental ... The chief point of writing the life of an artist is to trace the threads of experience and influence that formed the mature works we know. In this baggy, indulgent, often highly enjoyable book, those threads can get snagged on detail, tangled in digressive anecdote. It could, should, have been cut by at least a third. But where would be the fun in that?
RaveThe Financial Times\"Fascinating ... straightforward, chronological, with few frills. Sometimes there is detail — trees, clothes, books read and music heard — at other times an event or an emotion is captured and dismissed in a passing phrase. Yet the life she describes is seething with emotional event ... the engine of this narrative works [in] the accumulation of detail that abruptly crystallises into drama ... [A Life of My Own will be one of] the great biographies we know her for.
PositiveThe Financial TimesThe novel is crammed with facts, history, research and the arcana of Hinduism — and Barker is determined to lay it out for us in all its richness. She does this with skill but the typographical riot sometimes sends us to the edge of narrative chaos ... She shows her chops as a novelist, too, by injecting psychological truth into the fantastical scenario ... This is an extremely ambitious book, playful, maddening, overlong, thought-provoking and rich. As an investigation of faith — which is what it must surely be — that’s not a bad way to go.