5 New Biographies to Watch Out For

Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love and Loss by Rachel Clarke (30 Jan 2020) 
dear life
‘What a remarkable book this is; tender, funny, brave, heartfelt, radiant with love and life. It brought me often to laughter and – several times – to tears. It sings with joy and kindness’ Robert Macfarlane

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Your Life in My Hands comes this vibrant, tender and deeply personal memoir that finds light and love in the darkest of places.

As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable.

Rachel’s training was put to the test in 2017 when her beloved GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing – even the best palliative care – can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love.

And yet, she argues, in a hospice there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more kindness, more joy, more tenderness, more grace, more compassion – than you could ever imagine. For if there is a difference between people who know they are dying and the rest of us, it is simply this: that the terminally ill know their time is running out, while we live as though we have all the time in the world.

Dear Life is a book about the vital importance of human connection, by the doctor we would all want by our sides at a time of crisis. It is a love letter – to a father, to a profession, to life itself.

One of Them: From Albert Square to Parliament Square by Michael Cashman (6 Feb 2020) 
michael cashman
‘Passionate and true . A great book about love, pain and the whole damn thing’ Simon Callow, Guardian
‘A memoir to cherish’ Ian McKellen

‘A brave, good man’ Sheila Hancock

‘A book to be savoured’ Alan Johnson

‘There are so many reasons to love this book’ Armistead Maupin

‘A beautifully written, funny memoir’ Jo Brand

Michael Cashman has lived many lives, all of them remarkable: as a beloved actor of stage and screen; as a campaigner for gay rights; as an MEP and as a life peer.

Born in the post-war East End of London, young Michael’s life is changed when he is spotted in a school play, cast in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! and is transported to the glittering West End. Acting on stage and screen into adulthood, he finds his most defining role as Colin in Eastenders, making television history as one half of the first gay kiss ever broadcast on a British soap. But it is a chance encounter in a Butlins resort that leads Michael to the great love of his life: Paul Cottingham, who would become his husband and partner of 31 years.

We follow Michael’s second act, as with Ian McKellen he founds and chairs Stonewall, fighting tirelessly for civil liberties all over the world before entering the world of politics. His adventures and misadventures lead him and Paul as far and wide as high tea in LA with David Hockney to flirting with Joan Collins to flying the rainbow flag over the Albert Hall with Elton John. But Michael’s greatest triumphs are seasoned with bitter loss – and he continues his ceaseless fight bearing a profound grief.

One of Them contains as many multitudes as its author: glorious nostalgia, wicked showbiz gossip, a stirring history of a civil rights movement, a sorrowfully clear-eyed exposition of Britain’s standing in Europe, and an unforgettable love story. Told with warmth, wit and humanity, it is an account of a life lived both left-of-field and firmly embedded in the heart of all that makes Britain liberal and good.

Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone De Beauvoir and Me: A Memoir by Deirdre Bair (6 Feb 2020) 
Parisian Lives
‘Fascinating… Wonderfully entertaining and absorbing’ Sunday Times

‘Gripping’ New York Times Book Review

In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and recently minted PhD who managed to secure access to Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett. He agreed that she could write his biography despite never having written – or even read – a biography herself. The next seven years of intimate conversations, intercontinental research, and peculiar cat-and-mouse games resulted in Samuel Beckett: A Biography, which went on to win the National Book Award and propel Deirdre to her next subject: Simone de Beauvoir. The catch? De Beauvoir and Beckett despised each other – and lived essentially on the same street. While quite literally dodging one subject or the other, and sometimes hiding out in the backrooms of the great cafés of Paris, Bair learned that what works in terms of process for one biography rarely applies to the next. Her seven-year relationship with the domineering and difficult de Beauvoir required a radical change in approach, yielding another groundbreaking literary profile.

Drawing on Bair’s extensive notes from the period, including never-before-told anecdotes and details that were considered impossible to publish at the time, Parisian Lives is full of personality and warmth and gives us an entirely new window on the all-too-human side of these legendary thinkers.

Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane by Karen R. Jones (11 Feb 2020)
calamity
A fascinating new account of the life and legend of the Wild West’s most notorious woman: Calamity Jane Martha Jane Canary, popularly known as Calamity Jane, was the pistol-packing, rootin’ tootin’ “lady wildcat” of the American West. Brave and resourceful, she held her own with the men of America’s most colorful era and became a celebrity both in her own right and through her association with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody. In this engaging account, Karen Jones takes a fresh look at the story of this iconic frontierswoman. She pieces together what is known of Canary’s life and shows how a rough and itinerant lifestyle paved the way for the scattergun, alcohol-fueled heroics that dominated Canary’s career. Spanning Canary’s rise from humble origins to her role as “heroine of the plains” and the embellishment of her image over subsequent decades, Jones shows her to be feisty, eccentric, transgressive-and very much complicit in the making of the myth that was Calamity Jane.

Mrs Paine’s Garage and the Murder of John F. Kennedy by Thomas Mallon (11 Feb 2020) 
mrs paine's garage
Nearly forty years have passed since Ruth Hyde Paine, a Quaker housewife in suburban Dallas, offered shelter and assistance to a young man named Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife, Marina. For nine months in 1963, Mrs. Paine was so deeply involved in the Oswalds’ lives that she eventually became one of the Warren Commission’s most important witnesses.

Mrs. Paine’s Garage is the tragic story of a well-intentioned woman who found Oswald the job that put him six floors above Dealey Plaza–into which, on November 22, he fired a rifle he’d kept hidden inside Mrs. Paine’s house. But this is also a tale of survival and resiliency: the story of a devout, open-hearted woman who weathered a whirlwind of investigation, suspicion, and betrayal, and who refused to allow her enmeshment in the calamity of that November to crush her own life.

Thomas Mallon gives us a disturbing account of generosity and secrets, of suppressed memories and tragic might-have-beens, of coincidences more eerie than conspiracy theory. His book is unlike any other work that has been published on the murder of President Kennedy.

 

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