In this biography, discover the true story of Harriet the Spy author Louise Fitzhugh—and learn about the woman behind one of literature's most beloved heroines. Harriet the Spy , first published in 1964, has mesmerized generations of readers and launched a million diarists.
... a highly enjoyable biography by Leslie Brody, a professor at the University of Redlands in California and the author of a 2010 biography of Jessica Mitford ... Ms. Brody’s engaging biography reminds us how fragile and serendipitous artistic beginnings can be, yet how mighty and enduring their endings.
... a fun, gossipy biography ... But Fitzhugh herself left few personal papers: she didn’t write a lot of letters, and the small number of journals she kept continue to be held closely by the estate. The stories that Brody is able to tell the reader, then, are mostly second- or third-hand, conveyed to her by friends as they reminisced after Fitzhugh’s death or by the handful of enterprising earlier writers who attempted to crack the nut of Fitzhugh’s life ... Brody’s account of the novel relies heavily on generational analysis; she sees Harriet the Spy as a prototypical Baby Boomer text, a 'countercultural' story that questions authority, and she—like many other critics—presents the novel instrumentally, as a tool that readers can use to do something else with ... Brody—working with interviews given by various friends of Fitzhugh’s—links her death on November 19, 1974, to the middling reviews that Nobody’s Family Is Going to Change received that fall. The evidence feels thin ... After I finished...I felt like I knew Fitzhugh better, could hear her voice more clearly, and was afforded new insight into her fiction. But there’s a part of me that still holds onto something far deeper that is dramatized in Fitzhugh’s fiction—that nobody owes themselves to anyone, least of all Fitzhugh to us.
In Sometimes You Have to Lie an engrossing and carefully researched biography of Louise Fitzhugh, Leslie Brody vibrantly tells the story of the complicated and ultimately triumphant life of the author of Harriet the Spy. She presents a full portrait of Fitzhugh, previously a shadowy figure at best, and places her firmly in the top rank of children’s book creators. What’s more, she establishes that Fitzhugh was a writer and artist who had an indelible impact on generations of young readers and adult writers as disparate as Jonathan Franzen and Alison Bechdel ... We can always read (or reread) Harriet the Spy. And now, thanks to this superb biography, we have become intimately familiar with its enigmatic and fascinating creator.