Once again Britain is home to many of this month’s picks. They range from singer Rod Stewart, writers Martin Amis, Oscar Wilde and Daphne du Maurier to those who chose to live in that country and are now associated with her, such as Karl Marx and the Americans Nancy Astor and Sylvia Plath. Stories of six women who made new lives in America are also included in this month’s complement along with an entrepreneurial Kiwi engineer, who invented the electric fence among many other useful things, is celebrated in a new biography.
Something for everybody !! Enjoy this month’s selection.
Martin Amis : the biography / Richard Bradford.
“Martin Amis’s life could itself provide the formula for an enthralling work of fiction. Son of one of the most popular and best-loved novelists of the post-War era, he has forged a groundbreaking manner of writing that owes nothing to the style of his father, nor indeed to anyone else. He relished and recorded the bizarre, turbulent atmosphere of Britain and the US during the 1970s and 80s, arguably the transformative period of the late 20th century. No other contemporary writer has proved so magnetic for the popular press: he has, despite himself, achieved celebrity status. Of late, his reputation as a novelist has been matched by his outspoken, challenging writing on contemporary global politics, and he has earned the status as the Orwell of the early 21st century.” ( Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).
O my America! : second acts in a new world / Sara Wheeler.
“After reckoning with the ends of the earth in acclaimed books such as Terra Incognita and The Magnetic North, Sara Wheeler rediscovered America thirty-five years after her first Greyhound trip across the country. She returns in turbulent midlife to trace the steps of six women who fled various sorts of trouble in nineteenth-century England and went to the United States to reinvent themselves. Her travel companions include Fanny Trollope, mother of Anthony and author of the biting Domestic Manners of the Americans; the actress Fanny Kemble, who shocked the nation with her passionate first-hand indictment of slavery; the prolifically pamphleteering economist Harriet Martineau; the homesteader Rebecca Burlend, who had never been more than twelve miles from her Yorkshire village before she sailed to the New World; the traveller Isabella Bird, whose many ailments remained in check as long as she was scaling the Rockies; and the novelist Catherine Hubback, niece of Jane Austen, who deposited her husband in a madhouse and rode the brand-new rails to San Francisco.”(Summary from www.amazon.co.uk).
Mad girl’s love song : Sylvia Plath and life before Ted / Andrew Wilson.
“To curtail fears that this latest Plath biography forges already blatant connections between her work and her torrid inner life or her relationship with Ted Hughes, be assured, it is something altogether new. Wilson (Beautiful Shadow) fulfills his title’s promise, divulging her impressive string of romances, love-hate relationship with her mother, and “vampiric” interactions with those close to her, among other atypical and unconventional issues. While the significance of some seemingly frivolous details may appear momentous, it’s refreshing that Wilson does not make Plath’s suicide his focus, just as he examines her earlier, formative publications in magazines such Seventeen, Mademoiselle, and Ladies Home Journal as often-if not more so-as he does her better.’(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).
Proust’s overcoat / Lorenza Foschini ; translated by Eric Karpeles.
“In the tradition of “The Professor and the Madman” comes the charming, intriguing story of one man’s obsessive search for the personal effects of legendary author Marcel Proust.” (Syndetics summary)
Ceremonies of bravery : Oscar Wilde, Carlos Blacker, and the Dreyfus Affair / J. Robert Maguire.
‘”Ceremonies of Bravery’ is a study of the friendship between the prolific writer Oscar Wilde and Carlos Blacker. The two men met in the 1880s, the period when Wilde was judged by many to be at his best, and Blacker went on to become a trustee of Wilde’s marriage settlement”.(Syndetics summary).
Levels of life / Julian Barnes.
“‘You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed…’ Julian Barnes’ new book is about ballooning, photography, love and grief; about putting two things, and two people, together, and about tearing them apart. One of the judges who awarded him the 2011 Man Booker Prize described him as ‘an unparalleled magus of the heart’. This book confirms that opinion”.
Nancy : the story of Lady Astor / Adrian Fort.
“In 1919, Nancy Astor became the first woman to be elected to Parliament. She was not what had been expected. Far from a virago who had suffered for the cause of female suffrage, she was already near the centre of the ruling society that had for so long resisted the political upheavals of the early twentieth century, having married into the family of one of the richest men in the world. She was not even British. She would prove to be a trailblazer and beacon for the generations of women who would follow her into Parliament. This new biography charts Nancy Astor’s incredible story, from penury in the American South, to a lifestyle of the most immense riches, from the luxury of Edwardian England, through the ‘Jazz Age’, and on towards the Second World War: a world of great country estates, lavish town houses and the most sumptuous entertainments, peopled by the most famous and powerful names of the age. But hers was not only the life of power, glamour and easy charm: it was also defined by principles and bravery, by war and sacrifice, by love and bitter disputes.
With glorious, page-turning brio, Adrian Fort has brought to life this restless, controversial American dynamo, an unforgettable woman who left a deep and lasting imprint on the political life of our nation”. (Syndetics summary)
Daphne du Maurier and her sisters : the hidden lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing / Jane Dunn.
“The Du Mauriers — three beautiful, successful and rebellious sisters. Much has been written about Daphne but here the hidden lives of the sisters are revealed in a riveting group biography.’ (Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).
Karl Marx : a nineteenth-century life / Jonathan Sperber.
“Returning Marx to the Victorian confines of the nineteenth century, Jonathan Sperber, one of the United States’ leading European historians, challenges many of our misconceptions of this political firebrand turned London émigré journalist. In this deeply humanizing portrait, Marx no longer is the Olympian soothsayer, divining the dialectical imperatives of human history, but a scholar-activist whose revolutionary Weltanschauung was closer to Robespierre’s than to those of twentieth-century Marxists.” (Syndetics summary)
Legend : from electric fences to global success : the Sir William Gallagher story / Paul Goldsmith.“The story of New Zealand’s most successful exporter and its head, Bill Gallagher, who built on the invention of an electric fence to make the company a world leader in its field. New Zealanders are always being exhorted to take a clever idea and go global. Easier said than done. But one iconic company has been doing just that for over 75 years. Gallagher Industries began in a Hamilton shed in the late 1930s, when a self-taught engineer, Bill Gallagher, came up with a design for an electric fence that transformed New Zealand farming. His sons Bill junior and John took over the business in the 1970s and applied their engineering genius and driving ambition to turn it into one of this country’s most successful companies. Today it employs 600 staff in New Zealand and has distributes its animal containment and security products worldwide.” ( Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).
Rod : the autobiography / [Rod Stewart].
“Rod Stewart was born working-class son of a Scottish plumber in North London. He was never, as some stories later had it, a professional footballer or a gravedigger, though he did become a bit of a singer – and a fairly good one at that. This book tells the story of a guy with one hell of a voice and one hell of a head of hair”.(Syndetics summary).