Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

A Book of Secrets by Michael Holroyd

An extraordinary, unclassifiable book by one of England's most distinguished biographers (Lytton Strachey, Augustus John, George Bernard Shaw), A Book of Secrets finds Michael Holroyd prowling around the shadowy edges of history's spotlights for a change. He traces the tangled, thwarted lives of those who brushed up against greatness, often at the expense of their respectability, but never achieved it themselves: a mistress of the Prince of Wales; a muse of Auguste Rodin; a lover of Vita Sackville-West. (The book plays as a nonfictional companion to Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child.) Holroyd rescues the lives of his subjects just as they're in danger of fading away forever. Their passions and tragedies are all the more affecting for having left almost no trace behind.