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fascinating new biographies
Celebrate fascinating people with our pick of biographies and memoirs
I decided on the theme of this fortnight’s Book Edit for two key reasons, the first being to celebrate the wealth and breadth of fascinating new biography and memoir that is published this month.
From David Cameron to Alistair Cook, from Julie Andrews to Jenson Button, ‘tis definitely the season for big-hitting ‘celebrity’ memoirs. But flying slightly under the radar are a host of additional titles about people and their achievements that I’d never thought to dwell on before, in particular the quietly phenomenal engraver, Reynolds Stone, whose work we see every day on stamps, banknotes and our passports.
The second reason is that I am really excited about our newly announced pre-Christmas event with a very special guest: Jarrold is thrilled to be welcoming Lady Glenconner for an evening at The Assembly House, in conversation about her new memoir, Lady in Waiting. Anne Glenconner, who grew up at Holkham Hall, was lady in waiting to Princess Margaret and a maid of honour at the Queen’s coronation; she will share behind the scenes anecdotes of a life spent with royalty. Tickets are going fast!
Lady in Waiting
OUR PRICE £17
This memoir of a truly extraordinary life opens with Lady Glenconner describing her meeting with Nancy Carroll, the actress who will play her on screen this autumn in series 3 of The Crown. To viewers this Netflix drama can sometimes feel like fiction – to Anne Glenconner it is very much reality. Having been Princess Margaret’s lady in waiting and a maid of honour at the Queen’s coronation, she has lived life as friend to the royal family. Yet she has also seen great tragedy and drama, in her unhappy marriage, the death of two of her three children and the knowledge she would never inherit her family home at Holkham Hall. It will be a great privilege to hear Lady Glenconner bring this book to life, in person, at our event on November 27th (tickets available here).
Push: My Father, Polio, And Me
Sarah Passingham will be one of three guests at our next literary lunch, where we also announce the winners of the East Anglian Book Awards 2019. She lives in Norfolk and this is the deeply moving story of her father, engineer Push Pulman. In 1952, with a promising future as an Olympic rower and married for just 6 weeks, he contracted polio and was paralysed, spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Sarah expertly blends his memoir with her own memories of Push to produce this fascinating, beautiful book. What stands out in this memoir is the inherent positivity that emanates from the story; even at its darkest points, we are reminded how lucky we are that modern medicine has liberated us from polio and other life-changing diseases.
OUR PRICE £30
If you had asked me a couple of months ago who was responsible for designs we all instantly recognise on stamps, banknotes, the coat of arms on our passports, the masthead for The Times, I wouldn’t have known. It is in fact the artist Reynolds Stone (1909-1979), a distinguished wood engraver whose illustrious career is celebrated in this new biography by his son, Humphrey Stone. The hardback book is a thing of beauty, from Stone’s work adorning the endpapers, to the 365 reproductions inside of engravings, drawing, watercolours and photographs inside. From 1953 Stone lived in Dorset but after his friends John and Myfanwy Piper introduced him to Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears he made regular trips to their home in Aldeburgh in Suffolk, where a retrospective of his work was held in 2009.
OUR PRICE £18
With a massive publicity campaign behind it, this book (ghost-written by music journalist Alex Petridis) is going to be one of the heavyweights this season, on many Christmas lists. And it really does deliver, packed with detail and anecdotes for Elton fans, ranging from salacious to insightful, while also being entertaining and eye-opening for the more dispassionate reader (this is where I sat). The cover couldn’t be more apt – a black and white close-up of Elton, perhaps representing his seriously talented, successful persona, then a splurge of neon lighting up his glasses, signifying fun, glamour and an altogether racier side to him. Me gives you both sides to him and unlike this year’s movie about him, Rocketman, doesn’t end when the drugs stopped, it gives us Elton as we know him today.
OUR PRICE £14
Printed on glossy, high-quality paper, this memoir from co-founder and singer of Blondie, feels almost like an art book. The fact it is full of bespoke illustrations, fan-art installations and never-before-seen photographs adds to this effect making it a real collector’s item. Like its subject, the narrative is cool, dramatic and edgy, following her path from fame and success to heroin addiction and the near-death of her partner, Chris Stein, to Blondie’s breakup to her collaborations over the years with everyone from Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
An Improbable Life
OUR PRICE £14
Most of us will know Sir Trevor McDonald’s voice and face from his years spent presenting ITN’s News at Ten and ITV’s Evening News. He has received more awards than any other broadcaster in Britain, was awarded an OBE in 1992 and a knighthood in 1999. But many of us won’t know that he was born in Trinidad and first came to Britain in 1969, lending this autobiography of what he feels is an ‘improbable life’, a unique perspective. He also reflects on the momentous interviews and events he has covered, from Nelson Mandela to Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi to the inauguration of Barack Obama. It might be an improbable life but it is also inspirational and impressive.
Prices and availability checked Thursday 17 October 2019.