RaveFinancial Times (UK)Making Darkness Light is billed as a \'biography\' of Milton. Moshenska, professor of English literature at the University of Oxford, might be well placed to write the advertised biography. But this is something tantalisingly different and new: a personal exploration of what it is to read Milton, himself (until losing his sight) the consummate reader ... Moshenska, an Englishman who obtained his PhD at Princeton, allows himself \'impossible questionings and wild imaginings\' on his subject, and the incessant intrusions of Moshenska’s own presence into this text often feel deeply American ... not so much an exercise in biography as a combination of memoir and of that most American of disciplines, Comparative Literature. In so far as we encounter a chronology of the life of Milton, it is as a series of vignettes that allow Moshenska to spend each chapter pondering a theme inspired by a domestic image of his hero’s life or a line of poetry ... The author’s self-indulgence should grate, and at times it does. To understand Milton’s musicality, do we need to learn exactly how Moshenska’s own sense of the physicality of piano practice was sharpened by breaking a finger while playing football with his young daughter? Nonetheless, Making Darkness Light emerges as an extraordinary, seductive work of intellectual imagination ... The author has the focused scholarly expertise to root this story in 17th-century detail, although he inevitably telescopes some controversial academic debates — the nature of humanist education, the definition of Puritanism — for the benefit of the general reader. Yet broadening his scope outwards to the big questions of literature as a genre, Moshenska still seems to have read everything, and knows exactly where to apply it.
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)\"Lee is no real intruder. For seven years she has shadowed Stoppard’s life, and the result is a scrupulously authorised biography. It suffers from the usual drawbacks that come with such access: Lee minimises Stoppard’s flaws, raves over his literary work and obsesses about his \'gorgeous-looking\' youthful appearance. In return she gets to reveal a cornucopia of personal notebooks, literary letters, and even early love poems, shedding unprecedented light on one of the great names of a generation ... There is little scandalous here. As literary history, Lee’s biography never disappoints ... As literary criticism, it is frustrating ... Lee gives her own interpretations, but barely acknowledges the vast body of work by other scholars. She has scant time for professional theatre critics and rarely references any by name, unless those names are Tynan or Billington ... sensitivity to political and historical context that elevates Lee’s biography above any lapses ... She highlights potentially racist or sexist jokes, then shrugs at each as \'of its time\' ... Yet her research is encyclopedic, her hero charismatic, her scope expansive ... Hers is an essential contribution to theatre history.
RaveThe Financial Times (UK)Thomas Penn’s weighty new volume takes as its titular subject the lives of these three brothers. But The Brothers York is primarily a biography of the charismatic Edward — and a superb biography at that ... The tragedy and brutality of the Wars of the Roses jumps out from every page of Penn’s book ... Against all this barbarism, the chivalric obsessions of Edward’s court may seem contradictory. But Penn’s achievement is to place at the heart of his narrative the stories that Edward’s followers wanted to tell themselves. This is a world of young men whose insistence on seeing themselves as a new Camelot was an essential veneer to the brutality waiting to burst out at any moment ... an impressive and engaging read.
RaveFinancial TimesA major work of scholarship of the type that will reset academic understanding of Tudor politics for a generation...MacCulloch’s dry donnish humour lifts each page...part of MacCulloch’s skill is to introduce even the general reader to the thrill of a historian’s process.