A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers

Michael Holroyd, Author
Michael Holroyd. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-11558-6
Hardcover - 258 pages - 978-0-7011-8534-3
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-1-250-00766-7
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4070-6375-1
Paperback - 258 pages - 978-0-09-954894-2
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4299-6921-5
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Master raconteur and biographer of Bernard Shaw and Lytton Strachey, the always elegant Holroyd is at the top of his game in the final installment of a trilogy (after Basil Street Blues and Mosaic)—sadly for the world of publishing, he says it is his swan song. In this dizzying group biography, relating to the significant women in the 60-year lifespan of Ernest Beckett (who died in 1917), second Lord Grimthorpe, Holroyd explores not only the well-known life of Violet Trefusis, the novelist and notorious lover of Vita Sackville-West, but also Alice Keppel, with whom Grimthorpe sired the illegitimate Trefusis; and Eve Fairfax, muse to Auguste Rodin, as well as Grimthorpe’s onetime fiancée (she lived to almost 107 without marrying). Much of the book is also devoted to the delicious ins and outs of the biographer’s art, in which Holroyd has few peers. Getting together with Gore Vidal in the novelist’s Italian aerie (which was built for one of Grimthorpe’s legitimate children) is just one of the highlights of guilty-pleasure name-dropping. Holroyd writes like an angel and memorably draws the rivulets of these fluid lives together. 8 pages of b&w illus. (Aug.)
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