Thursday, May. 19, 2011

A Book of Secrets by Michael Holroyd

Holroyd is one of the most eminent biographers working today. (He has written about the lives of Lytton Strachey, Augustus John and George Bernard Shaw.) Here he tells the story of a place instead of a person: the Villa Cimbrone, an impossibly scenic estate on the coast of southern Italy. Cimbrone had eminent visitors (D.H. Lawrence, the Bloomsbury group), but Holroyd focuses instead on those who lived in the shadows of the great and whom greatness eluded — an Edwardian bon vivant named Ernest Beckett, who renovated the villa; his jilted fiancée; and his unacknowledged daughter. 8/2