Bernard Shaw: A Biography

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9780099749011: Bernard Shaw: A Biography

Holroyd has done a masterly job of cutting down his huge biography to a lively and manageable one-volume life - the definitive Shaw for the general reader and the student. It has verve and pace, the light and shade of his life are emphasized, digressions cut, and Shaw comes over just as much larger than life as he always was, just as contrary, and even more sympathetically and movingly portrayed. This is a dazzling portrait of the man and his age.

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Review:

Michael Holroyd is the distinguished British biographer of writer Lytton Strachey (whose life formed the basis of the film Carrington) as well as the painter Augustus John. But his voluminous biography of writer George Bernard Shaw--the author of Pygmalion (made into the musical My Fair Lady)--originally published in four volumes, is probably his masterwork. This newly abridged one-volume edition has the virtue of cutting the documentation--which will be missed only by other scholars on Shaw--and is aimed squarely at the general reader, who will find here an entertaining survey with a wide base of interest. Unlike other recent books on Shaw that focus on a single aspect such as sexuality or politics, Holroyd's approach is general and quite successful. One feels that the biographer has grasped what was important to Shaw at each crucial moment of his life. Thus the biography becomes a kind of companion to the life, discreetly pointing out features of interest, but never overly imposing Holroyd's own personality, though there are some wry observations--such as those about Shaw's estate in recent years--that indicate Holroyd's dry wit. Though not short at 704 pages, there are no longueurs, and this book is a fine example of biography at its best, a must for literature collections. --Benjamin Ivry

About the Author:

Michael Holroyd was born in 1935 and is half-Swedish and partly Irish. Recognised as one of the greatest biographers of our time, he is the author of acclaimed biographies of Hugh Kingsmill, Lytton Strachey, Augustus John, and Shaw. He was awarded the CBE in 1989. Born in London, he now lives in London and Somerset and is married to author Margaret Drabble.

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Michael Holroyd
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