PositiveThe New StatesmanIn place of the baggy, inclusive tome, here is a more shapely and original approach that invites a biographer to explore the truth at spots where life and work are known to converge ... Dickens can create the pure of heart and their humility as a counterpoise to the evil that Wilson investigates with keen acumen ... To explore the nature of evil makes for an absorbing read and a subject that adds weight to biography itself. This is an ambitious and now and then strained attempt to lift the genre into line with the moral depth of Dante’s Inferno and with Conrad’s fictional counterpart lurching about a sepulchral city, almost maddened by his encounter with the \'horror\' of what lurks in men’s hearts.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"In The Club, the American literary scholar Leo Damrosch brilliantly brings together the members’ voices ... Beginning with the friendship between Johnson, the moralist, and Boswell, his promiscuous future biographer—a connection that was initially forged outside the Club—Damrosch breathes life into \'The Friends Who Shaped an Age\' (in his subtitle’s phrase). As this stellar book moves from one Club member to another, it comes together as an ambitious venture homing in on the nature of creative stimulus ... Resonating beyond the well-documented links among these leading lights, The Club captures their distinctly individual voices and invites us to feel the pulsations of contact over a period of 20 years ... The best historians...invite readers to accompany them \'behind the scenes.\' Damrosch does precisely that here ... a book that sustains a shared conversation, a terrific feat in keeping with that of the Club itself.\
PositiveThe New Statesman (UK)... What emerges in fascinating detail is the extent of corruption in the literary marketplace, which, a century later, still resembled – in the words of Woolf – \'the Underworld\' ... This book takes biography to a new level, making it difficult to place. It goes beyond the facts of a life and its connections ... Miller’s determination to distil meaning from fact brings her work close to the sort of detection found in Joseph Conrad...This venture is all the more heroic for a seeker’s uncertainties. It demands exploratory imagination along with surface fact: in this case, the sudden death of a famous person long ago ... Deftly and surely, Miller peels away the extravagant melancholy of the poet’s lovelorn mask to reveal a sexual bargain ... I love Miller’s tart, ironic voice as she unpicks the lies and obfuscation of editors, businessmen, journalists and even Landon’s doctor ... Most keenly of all, Miller unpicks the shifts of the poet herself as a creature of her shifty world ... The very challenge of this biography is that the subject has lent herself so completely to her array of guises, manifested in contrived portraits that it’s impossible to find her with any certainty ... Miller’s investigation into the corroded promise of one young life opens up an abyss and, holding our gaze, speaks eloquently to the present.
PositiveThe New StatesmanDennison’s bold criticism stands out in a biography that is scrupulously just to its subject. His frequent reminders of the blows Grahame suffered will speak to rational minds. The reminders are necessary because the blows, as they happen, are oddly unmoving. We have to understand the reasons why this child developed so extreme a version of an escapist self. Only gradually does Dennison allow the facts to add up to something twisted, even dangerous to any human being who ventured too close ... Drawing on telling quotes from Grahame’s works, Dennison’s book more than meets the challenge of a walled-off man. The result is a sensitively probing and nuanced portrait that makes sense of the darker character furled in the dreamer.