— But you will be ready to say, what was your hope in doing this? — What did you look forward to? — To any thing, every thing — to time, chance, circumstances, slow effects, sudden bursts, perserverance and weariness ... Every possibility of good was before me, and the first of blessings secured ... — from Emma, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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February 13, 2016

Bingeing on biographies




Since, if asked, I would say that biographies — especially literary biographies — were probably my favorite form of reading. I was surprised (even a little sad) to realize that I had read relatively few of them last year. I didn't really plan to make up for that in first few months of this year, but I'm glad that I did. :)

Especially since two of these books {the one about Lady Byron and the one about Dora Wordsworth  and Sara Coleridge} reminded me why I love reading biographies so much — because in skilled hands a biography can deepen my interest in someone I know a little about but also so often awakens it {as these did} in someone I don't, and to be honest can often provide the kind of enchanting, or even gripping, read that I don't always find in fiction or mysteries. 

The third one (the one about Queen Elizabeth} reminded me how disappointing a not-as-well-written  biography can be, one that takes what should be a fascinating story and left me wanting so much more.   I was a little surprised because I remember enjoying her book on another young queen {though I read somewhere that she didn't have access to very much material this time}. 



7 comments:

Mac n' Janet said...

I read very little nonfiction, but when I do it's generally a biography. Been working on William Manchester's massive 3-volume biography of Winston Churchill.

lyn said...

I have The Poet's Daughters on the tbr shelves. Another excellent biography on the women involved with the Lake poets is Passionate Sisterhood by Kathleen Jones. I read it years ago (published by Virago in the 90s) but have never forgotten it.

Audrey said...

Oh! I have Passionate Sisterhood on my list, too, and I'm sure I heard about both of these books from you - so thank you, Lyn!

Lisa said...

I find I can't binge on non-fiction - I need some story in between my history :) I always think of Helene Hanff's comment on why she didn't read fiction, because she couldn't get interested in "things that never happened to people who never existed." I've never felt that way!

Audrey said...

Me neither, but I love that!

Jane @ Beyond Eden Rock said...

I have Passionate Sisterhood in my Virago collection and The Poets Daughters on my non fiction bookcase and I am so tempted to pull them both out. I love the idea of non fiction, I often love reading it, but I don't pick it up often enough.

I'm about to pick up the Antonia Fraser that you recommended to read another chapter before I sleep.

Kate Williams seems to spread herself very thin these days - writing non fiction, writing fiction, and often appearing as an expert on royal and historical matters for the BBC - so I do hope the quality of her work isn't suffering.

JaneGS said...

I'm a big fan of this subgenre myself--reading lit bios is such fun and illuminating. I really like the cover of The Poet's Daughters, and that one appeals to me the most as well.

And yes, not all biographers are equally skilled in their craft. Sorry to hear the EII one was a bust.

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