RaveThe Guardian (UK)English has written a terrific book, taut and thematic where it could so easily have been slack and baggy. Finding a focus cannot have been easy ... And Hitler is so huge a figure that a less assured writer would have had trouble cutting him down to size and keeping him in play. But English manages all this deftly; the result is a book as beautiful as it is bleak.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... what Hussey wants us to see in this revelatory book is just how different, how much of an outsider in Bloomsbury Clive Bell really was ... While none of this may sound very edifying, it provides a fascinating starting point for Hussey’s meticulously researched and hugely well-informed account of how modern art entered the British bloodstream in the first decades of the 20th century ... You certainly don’t end Hussey’s biography liking Bell. At times he seems to combine bad bits of cliquey, snobbish Bloomsbury with the even worse parts of anti-Bloomsbury—hearty, noisy and frequently brandishing a brace of dead partridge. Still, Hussey’s patient recuperative work is important in reminding us that the significant players in last century’s art history often refuse to fit our sentimental requirements.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)It is this publicly engaged Elizabeth that Fiona Sampson sets before us in this fine biography, the first since Margaret Forster’s more than 30 years ago. For her frame and point of reference Sampson uses Aurora Leigh, the verse novel that Barrett Browning wrote in 1856, which tells the story of a young female writer’s career, specifically an artist’s development. At first glance this might seem to mark a retreat to the personal and the biographic, but Sampson’s point is that Aurora Leigh provides us with a map and model for how Barrett Browning forged a new relationship between female subjectivity and public utterance ... Sampson is not too fastidious to deprive herself – or us – of the schlockier pleasures of biographical speculation ... Sampson is too judicious to say whether she really thinks that Browning bumped her off, but she understands enough about the pleasures of transgression to leave the possibility in play.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... terrific ... [Summerscale] has achieved the perfect balance between her central story and its cultural context ... Most deft of all is Summerscale’s reading of the Fodor-Fielding relationship, not as some folie à deux but as a piece of collaborative sense-making.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)A beguilingly supple narrative, able to absorb all the contradictions and revisions that mark a long, well-remembered life ... These revelations, from someone who insists on rereading a chapter of Anna Karenina every night, come as a jolt. But that, of course, is the great joy of the diary format. It allows a personality to unfold without any requirement that the author smoothes out the snags. The result isn’t exactly unvarnished – Morris admits that she still spends an inordinate amount of energy crafting her prose before setting it before us – but it gets us closer to the sources of her art than we have been before.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Hewitt...searches for radical credentials in Bonheur’s domestic life ... Bonheur spent much of her life cross-dressing ... Such an apparently non‑binary performance is a gift to the biographer, who is always under pressure to illustrate the contemporary resonance of her subject. But Hewitt never really pushes further into the muddling contradictions of Bonheur’s life and times. Here was a cross-dressing lesbian who liked to opine that other women should stick to frocks and an animal painter who insisted on the dignity of her dumb subjects while simultaneously making a fortune out of them. Not all of which is quite apparent from this diligently researched, beautifully produced and insistently sympathetic biography.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Perhaps this scrupulous biography’s greatest achievement is to remind us that Bedford had a second string to her writerly bow. From the 1950s she became a high-grade court reporter, writing several long-form essays about legal cases, including the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial and the Profumo affair. Because writing journalism for a contracted fee didn’t count as \'art\', Bedford finally found an ease and a fluency and a certain artisanal satisfaction in a job well done.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)It says something about how close the abdication of 1936 has come to slipping from living memory that Alexander Larman feels obliged to plant broad reminders early on ... [Larman] doesn’t go in for startling revisions, but instead makes use of the new sources and interpretive lenses that have become available in the intervening four decades. In particular Larman insists on bringing the Germans back into the narrative, reminding us just how badly Hitler wanted to keep Edward on the throne ... The centrepiece of Larman’s book, though, is the 1936 assassination attempt on Edward ... When it comes to Wallis Simpson, Larman follows recent revisionary accounts in suggesting that she was more sinned against than sinning ... Larman shows a delicate touch too in not banging home the obvious contemporary resonances. Instead he lets us find our own fun ...
MixedThe Guardian (UK)All of this is fascinating, but it is not really new ... Bradford is much less interested in [a] sociological approach, preferring to pathologise Highsmith instead. At one level this makes sense—her virulent antisemitism, misogyny and general awfulness really can’t be explained away by cultural fault lines. But at the other it does mean that Bradford’s Highsmith becomes a figure bordering on the grotesque. There’s also something odd about the way he deals with what he terms Highsmith’s \'lesbian inclinations.\' One minute he sounds like a maiden aunt, the next like a voyeur ... The result is a biography that manages to be both plodding and salacious at the same time.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)One of the great pleasures in this collection of pieces is seeing how determinedly [Macdonald] picks away at conundrums first encountered in H Is for Hawk, her hugely successful memoir of 2014 ... Visceral pieces are balanced by some marvellously cool-headed analyses in which Macdonald brings to bear her expertise as a historian of science ... Macdonald makes us see that the love and pride that disenfranchised people lavish on their captive birds is as fierce and contradictory as that of a squire surveying his mallards through binoculars.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)The great achievement of this revelatory book is to demolish any assumption on the part of English language readers that pre-modern Japan was all blossom, tea ceremonies and mysterious half-smiles. Instead, by working through the rich archive of letters and diaries left by Tsuneno and her family, Stanley reveals a culture that is remarkably reminiscent of Victorian England, which is to say deeply expressive once you’ve cracked the codes ... Stanley works hard throughout this compelling book to make Tsuneno into a feminist heroine, a brilliant girl born ahead of her time who \'always claimed what was hers\'. But on the evidence provided here, it really wasn’t like this. Tsuneno is interesting and admirable precisely because she was of her time and had to make the best of the hand she had been dealt. It is her ordinariness, and her multiple failures at not getting what she wanted, that make her story so deeply absorbing.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksRadical Wordsworth is Bate’s attempt to return the poet to his more palatable incarnation as the bold spirit who \'made a difference\' by changing both the literary culture and our relationship with the natural world. Bate says he is aiming here for the kind of biography that follows the growth of its \'subject’s imaginative power\' rather than one that trudges dutifully from cradle to grave. The result is a book that is recognizably Wordsworthian in the way it abjures the calendar in favor of the \'spots of time\' identified in The Prelude as those moments of piercing self-awareness that direct and define the growing self. Yet while this makes Radical Wordsworth episodic, it is never superficial. Bate, who until recently taught literature at Oxford, issues a stern instruction to his readers not to skip the long, indented blocks of poetry around which he builds his narrative. Instead, we are urged to slow down, savor, and even read the verse aloud. Radical Wordsworth succeeds where longer literary biographies often fail, by keeping the subject’s work, rather than the minutiae of his pocket diary or his tailor’s bills, lodged at its heart ... Bate is excellent on how Wordsworth forged a blank verse that shed its grand Miltonic subject matter while taking advantage of the form’s capacity for suppleness and intimacy ... it would be hard to think of a better poet to read just now, when our abuse of natural systems has brought us to this moment of terrible reckoning. And Bate is the right guide for the occasion, blowing the dust off familiar poems to reveal their startling resonance.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)There are so many Warholian moments in this superb biography that it’s hard to know where to start ... it would be wrong to imply that Gopnik’s book is one that Warhol might have written himself or, indeed, even liked very much. Far from being a ready-made, assembled from the detritus of the scholarly-industrial complex, Warhol: A Life As Art is the product of years studying 100,000 or so original documents housed in Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. The artist was a lifelong hoarder, and Gopnik’s research is intricately based on a florid haul of engagement diaries, business letters, love notes, theatre tickets and tax returns ... The first, and most audacious [claim], is that Warhol has \'overtaken Picasso as the most important and influential artist of the 20th century\' ... This is big talk, but Gopnik persuasively assembles his case over the course of this mesmerising book, which is as much art history and philosophy as it is biography ...Gopnik is also keen to dislodge the many canards about Warhol’s private life. The most adhesive of these is the one about him surrounding himself with every kind of kink and freak while remaining fastidiously hors de sexual combat. Gopnik carefully rummages through the laundry basket to reveal plenty of evidence that Warhol was an enthusiastic player in the NYC gay scene from the moment he first stepped off the Greyhound bus from Pittsburgh in 1949 ... If we are determined to continue seeing Our Andy as fey and de-natured, Gopnik suggests, then it says more about our lingering homophobia that cannot bear to contemplate an artistic genius \'caught in the act with men.\'
RaveThe New York TimesJust at the point when some of this might begin to feel too familiar — there are structural and tonal elements that sharply recall
Mothering Sunday Swift’s most recent and much-praised novel — we are propelled into something extraordinary ... Swift’s closing account of a mundane world momentarily pierced by a shaft of numinous mystery is magnificent.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)...[a] clever, subtle book ... Although her writing is critically informed – Foucault, Deleuze, Cixous and Irigaray all rock up here to chat about schmutter – [Bari\'s] tone is insistently personal, intimate even. Between her main chapters she drops in lyrical accounts of her own encounters with specific items of clothing ... Other passages are determinedly oblique ... Bari wants us to think not so much about what clothes say as how they make us feel ... Although the appeal of the suit is that it doesn’t look as if it’s trying too hard, Bari is convinced that beneath that sheeny worsted surface it is doing important work ... Bari is particularly good on how a dress looks while on a hanger – like a second skin waiting for flesh and blood to make it live. It is this sense of the dress as an alternative self that makes it so potent, far more charged, say, than a well-cut pair of trousers or a merino jumper.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)...one of the chief revelations of Lady in Waiting is just how cruel and wasteful the aristocratic system has historically been to women ... [Glenconner\'s] real focus, at least in this book, is on her best friend Margaret, who she believes has been horribly traduced in recent years as a narcissistic monster of rudeness and self-regard. While never resorting to a cover-up, Glenconner provides a nuanced character portrait of a woman whose life sounds truly wretched ... discretion and honour emerge as the hallmarks of Glenconner’s career as a royal servant, culminating in this book which manages to be both candid and kind.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)...[an] energising study of how an everyday commodity has ploughed up the world’s surface and hacked deep into its economic and political design ... Coffeeland is a data-rich piece of original research that shows in compelling detail how coffee capitalism has delivered both profit and pain, comfort and terror to different people at different times over the past 200 years ... could all feel dauntingly abstract, but Sedgwick’s great achievement is to clothe macroeconomics in warm, breathing flesh.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewJohnson, who... reveals that he has remained largely uncoupled in his adult life, is exquisitely alive to the bad chatter that \'solitaries\'— his ter for those who are solo by choice — attract ... In this lyrical yet finely argued book, Johnson sets out to show that being alone — so different from loneliness, its direct opposite, in fact — is absolutely essential to the creative life ... The revelation that artists are tricky to live with hardly seems sufficient roughage for a whole book. But Johnson is clear that when he talks about the \'creative life\' he means far more than the pursuit of individual excellence and glittering prizes. He is thinking instead about something closer to communal service, a caring for the world that depends on the setting aside of self ... What is this special quality, then, that is available only once we have learned to be truly alone? ... the deeper [Johnson] looks, the more distinct each of his emblematic figures becomes, so that, by the end of the book, it seems foolish to expect some secret formula by which Rabindranath Tagore, Eudora Welty and Nina Simone can be bound together. Ultimately Johnson’s answer seems to be that the more fully we can learn to exist without the \'social fiction\' of coupled togetherness, the more likely we are to be able to live most fully, and usefully, in the world, whether as librettist or librarian, wife or friend.
Emmanuel Carrere Trans. by John Lambert
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)It is difficult to like Emanuel Carrère, yet impossible not to fall in love with him a bit too ... While Carrère is happy for us to see him at his least heroic, he’s not shy about showing us what he describes as his \'amiable pornographer\' side either ... At a time when \'creative non-fiction\' seems to have become a synonym for memoir, it is a joy to be reminded of all the wonderful things that it can do when it looks beyond individual ego. While Carrère is hardly averse to writing about himself, he is equally happy to let other people and subjects take the spotlight ... There are wonderful explorations of what it was like to live in Calais in the \'jungle\' years, or what happens behind the scenes at Davos. There’s even an excellent piece on why Janet Malcolm was wrong in her famous remark that all journalists whose work involves interviewing other people know at some level that what they are doing is morally indefensible. All this is delivered in Carrère’s spare and supple prose.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... 20 sparkling mini-essays ... Skilfully deploying biography, close reading and psychogeography, Hardyment creates a series of charming house portraits ... In truth, Hardyment has not found much new to say about these literary homes but, like an excellent housekeeper, she rearranges and polishes up the furniture in such a way that you find yourself inclined to linger. Nor is her job always quite as easy or obvious as you might at first think. Literary houses have a disconcerting habit of either disappearing halfway through a text, or switching places with an uncanny twin.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)People who consume one thing about the Titanic tend to consume many, and there is always a shivery pleasure in accompanying old friends as they climb aboard once more, unaware that they are walking not only into a deathtrap but into a metaphor that will rattle down the ages ... It is fun too to wander once more through the Titanic’s preposterous interior ... In truth it is hard to see what Russell adds to a story that has been worn smooth by a century’s worth of popular histories, Hollywood blockbusters and TV documentaries with terrific underwater footage. Even his decision to concentrate on a cluster of individual passengers has been done before by Richard Davenport-Hines in his excellent Titanic Lives. Russell’s variation on this methodology is to spend much longer on his travellers’ backstories in the hope that, plaited together, the result will be something like a synoptic account of the 20th century in its debutante days ... In principle there is nothing wrong with wrenching the Titanic away from its frozen moment and restoring it to the ebb and flow of ordinary time. The problem is that this isn’t what Russell really wants to do. As his portentous title suggests, he is in the business of making the Titanic story huge and metaphorical, a morality tale about the collapse of a somewhat slipshod civilisation. The result is as unconvincing as the ship’s haphazard interior, a pile-up of the gaudy and the mundane.
RaveThe GuardianFor Mantel, childhood is a state of war and, within that, a place of siege. All around are the barbarians - teachers, especially, but other children too - who attempt to get a purchase on \'Ilary\'s inner world ... She is unsparing about the horrible oddness of spending the first 25 years of her life as a sylph and the next 25 obliged to wear floating tents to cover her galloping fatness ... She muses on the temptation to use charm to make herself lovely and works hard at the problem of how to inhabit the mind of a child as well as an older self without lurching clumsily between the two. She is wise, too, to the expectations of the genre, balking at those points when her life does not quite fit the template.
PositiveThe GuardianMacCarthy neatly dramatises her point that Gropius’s real genius was for coming up with ideas and creating a context in which they could flourish ... In the history of 20th-century design, it is too easy to fall into the old trap of believing that modernists valued ideas and form – and more particularly ideas about form – over living, breathing people with all their warm mess. In this brilliantly recuperative biography MacCarthy provides the same service for Gropius as she did 25 years ago for William Morris. In short, she shows us the man behind the forcefield. Go to Ikea and you’ll see how much we still owe him.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Miller wants us to see LEL less as a great poet (she really wasn’t) and more as an interesting \'foremother\' of today’s performative culture. In this reading, her first-person voice, which often seems provisional or about to be overwritten by the next thought or a new poem, becomes akin to the serial self-staging that you see on Twitter and Instagram. Under the particular pressure of the age, which languished somewhere between Romanticism and Victorianism, Landon threw together an identity for herself that spoke to the commercial demands of mass market publishing, but also answered the decree that authenticity was everything. Although it is hard to imagine readers scurrying to rediscover LEL’s verse, they will come away from Miller’s excellent biography understanding why she matters.
MixedThe GuardianPower is not immune from using the cliches of the books she is trying to critique ... lightning bolts of real-life experience, including what sounds like a painful breakdown three-quarters of the way through her experiment, stop Help Me! from floating off into inconsequence ... Still, the book retains a certain generic weightlessness. Making art, really funny art, out of the gap between how young women are and how they think they ought to be is still possible 20 years on from Bridget Jones: just think of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s darkly sublime Fleabag. Help Me! floats over the same territory but left me, just like the self-help texts it sets out to interrogate, hungry for something more. What’s missing, ultimately, is that sharp crack of insight that tells us what it feels like to be youngish and female here, now, at this very moment in history.
PositiveThe GuardianThe story of this unhappy trio has been told before, but seldom with as much brio as it is here ... Seymour is alive to all the self-serving bluster here, but she is equally keen that we should hear about Annabella’s generosity towards people who neither knew nor cared about her year of living dangerously with a naughty poet.
PositiveThe GuardianAn eloquent case for the vitality of the vampire figure, from 18th-century Slavic folk tales to Twilight, via Dracula ... invigorating.
RaveThe Gurdian\"Here is Nietzsche as most of us have not encountered him before: self-deprecating (he loses his trousers and finds it funny), unpredictable and, above all, sociable – friends arrive and leave, he dribbles away time in a popular student restaurant before finally gearing up to meet the great man. Even more remarkably, Prideaux resists the temptation to editorialise, to tug nervously at our sleeve to make sure we’ve got the point that Nietzsche is so much more than the sinister pin-up of mid-century fascists and serial killers ... The great pleasure of Prideaux’s sprightly biography is watching philosophy in the making. Reading about Nietzsche’s life, which had as many false starts and wrong turns as anyone else’s, is to be reminded that systems of thought do not arrive unbidden in the library or the lecture hall, but are worked out in the mess of everyday life ... Academic philosophers may feel that there is not much new to detain them here. For the rest of us, this biography is nothing short of a revelation, a sort of word made flesh.\
PositiveThe GuardianCompelling ... Walsh insists on pulling Debussy’s compositions into the heart of this biography, treating them as the essential register of emotional and intellectual existence ... deploys a delightfully fluent prose to carry the general reader along in the right direction.
MixedThe GuardianThose who have a nodding acquaintance with work on what evolutionary biologists call \'female choice\' will doubtless be worried that Martin has simply cherry-picked the examples that support her argument, while passing silently over all those thousands of studies that don’t show research subjects behaving in ways we’re used to: prudent egg-guarding females, and splashy seed-scattering males. One also wonders whether this material, invigorating though it is, quite counts as the \'new science\' that is trumpeted by the publicity. Some of this work, including that by the pioneering biologist Hrdy, dates back to the 1980s. The tone and structure are awkward, with the interviews with academics mixed with case histories of women who have chosen to break cultural taboos by openly sleeping with a secondary partner while retaining their primary relation ... Martin’s own attempt at fieldwork is marked by a counterproductive coyness.
PositiveThe Guardian\"Much of [Orlean\'s] book is concerned not with the quaintness of the past... but with the urgencies of modern life ... In the end, Orlean produces modern forensic testimony that suggests the Llibrary fire could just as easily have been caused by bad wiring or a sneaky cigarette. In a less assured telling this might come over as an anticlimax, a dull narrative thud. For Orlean, though, there is something about this open-endedness... that fits exactly with the endlessly generative possibilities of a much-loved public library.\
Liv Strömquist, Trans. by Melissa Bowers
RaveThe Times Literary SupplementThe Swedish cartoonist’s sophisticated comic strip is a brilliantly drawn, cleverly researched and deeply funny account of a battle signposted by its subtitle: The vulva vs the patriarchy ... Strömquist portrays women throughout history looking baffled, angry, or resigned as a stream of priests, judges and husbands peer at their genitals and declare them to be deformed, wicked, or just too damn hot for their own good ... Strömquist’s meta-historical jokes are clearly informed by research.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThere is a continuing literary trend in which (usually) female narrators twine their own life into that of a classic author ... What Stevens brings to the now-familiar form is an incisive wit that, more often than not, she deploys against herself ... Those who are familiar with Gaskell’s work—and she continues to inspire loving devotion around the world—may fret about the way Stevens has ruthlessly filleted the novelist’s life and reoriented it for her own purposes. Then again, this is exactly what Gaskell did to Charlotte Brontë in her revisionist (for which read \'borderline-fictionalized\') biography, so one could argue that there is a neat symmetry in play. Certainly, there can be no doubt about the genuine affection that drives Stevens’s project ... it would take a stonyhearted reader to begrudge Elizabeth Gaskell her happy ending.
PositiveThe GuardianAn elderly woman whom no one liked was bludgeoned to death in her smart Glasgow flat. Within hours a man whom no one liked either was identified as her killer and, in due course, condemned to hang. The Oscar Slater case is often invoked as an example of how easy it was for the police to fit someone up in an age before DNA, when crime scene protocol mostly consisted of slapping handcuffs on the nearest wrong ’un. But its broader message is perhaps: if you want to stay alive, it helps if people like you ... Within a few days of Gilchrist’s murder it became clear that Slater’s pawn ticket did not relate to the stolen brooch, that his trip to New York had been planned weeks earlier and that he bore no resemblance to the man seen fleeing the flat. Put simply, the police were fitting Slater up, quite possibly to cover for the real murderer who was rumoured to be a member of Gilchrist’s own family ... the flaws in the police case are so blindingly obvious that even Dr Watson would have smelled a rat ... Fox has worked hard to reshape a classic Edwardian murder case to make it fit with our times.
MixedThe New York Review of BooksWhat did it feel like to find yourself cornered in the inglenook at Clouds with a Wyndham sister bearing down on you for a confidential chat? It is these missing textures that many historians have tried to recover ... no one, including Claudia Renton in her accomplished first book, Those Wild Wyndhams, has quite succeeded ... Much of this material is familiar; nonetheless Renton works hard to shape it into interesting new configurations. Particularly fine is the way she draws on the remarkably frank letters among the Wyndham women to map out their bodily realities, particularly their experience of menstruation ... Where Renton is less adept is in integrating these fine-grained intimacies into the broader political story. Nonetheless, she is quite right to try ... Renton wants to make it clear that she is not simply writing an upmarket soap opera of the Downton Abbey kind. But it is very hard to keep these differently scaled narratives developing together, and the result is paragraphs that lurch from the latest on the brewing Boer War to someone’s first trimester, or from the first Post-Impressionist exhibition of 1910 to the campaign for a Home Defense Army.
PanThe GuardianDarwin, Wilson contends, was not the nervy but benign magus of Down House, labouring patiently for decades in rural Kent to unlock the origins of human life for the benefit of all mankind. He was actually an egotist with an unfailing eye for ‘the main chance,’ determined to go down in history as the greatest scientist of all time … Instead of subtitling this book Victorian Mythmaker, Wilson might have more accurately called it ‘J’Accuse.’ For despite a few pious throat-clearings on the dust jacket to the contrary, he has no interest in balance, no desire to be nice about the man whom he blames for pretty much everything that went wrong in the 20th century, from totalitarianism to the decline of organised religion.
RaveThe Guardian...[a] magisterial book ... For every 'but' in Hutton’s revisionary account of witchcraft there are two 'ands'; in other words, it is the continuities that excite him most. This is thrilling in the way it makes the subject live across time and place, but it also contains a warning. A belief in witchcraft, and all the horrors that can come in its wake, is demonstrably not a phenomenon that can be tucked up safely in a storybook past. Rather, on the evidence of Hutton’s analysis, it is a set of free-floating anxieties that can be conjured at those moments when the world seems out of joint and there is not quite enough of anything to go round.
RaveThe GuardianEach of the 17 short pieces in this book catches a famous historical animal just at the moment it dangles precariously between nature and culture. We meet a bear made to fight dogs in the stews of Elizabethan Southwark, and Clever Hans, a horse doing complicated fractions at a time when many working people still struggled with basic numeracy … Although these animal case histories lodge under the label of ‘essay’, Passarello tests and stretches the form in thrilling ways. Particularly brilliant – but, honestly, they are all brilliant – is an extended fantasy written from the point of view of Harriet, the Galápagos tortoise who Darwin reportedly brought back on the Beagle … The way that Passarello moves seamlessly between musicology, biography and the golden throat of a bird brain suggests that she is something of a virtuoso herself.
PositiveThe Guardian...[a] fine, fluent book ... a careful unpicking of cherished art historical narratives ... Readers of biography tend to require more than potted art history to keep them going. Above all, they like love affairs, and those are thin on the ground when the subject is over 80. Luckily for King, there is a candidate on hand for the role of Monet’s petit ami. It comes in the unlikely form of Georges Clemenceau.
MixedThe GuardianSummerscale is a scrupulous chronicler of recorded fact, never using rhetorical flourishes or speculation to fill the odd jumps and elisions in the Old Bailey transcript and its newspaper paraphrases. As a result, the case takes on a dreamlike quality ... Summerscale is far too subtle and confident a writer to feel the need to bang home the wider implications of her story.
RaveThe GuardianUsing her own emotional responses to the full range of Velázquez’s work Cumming pulls us so deeply into the painter’s world that it seems as if we can feel the breath of his subjects on our cheeks, and see the sheeny sweat on their brows. This is art as resurrection, which is why Snare could never bear to let his Charles go.