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Recommend a historical bio for a long beachside read, please!

(42 Posts)
VeryAngryGusset Thu 27-Aug-09 09:31:40

Could anyone point me in the direction of a historical bio I might enjoy? I like to get stuck into something interesting at the beach and at least feel as if I'm learning a bit!

To give you an idea, bios I have read and enjoyed are:

Alison Weir: Wars of the Roses; Children of England; 6 Wives.

Antonia Fraser: Marie Antionnette; Mary Queen of Scots; Charles II.

Claire Tomalin: Unequalled Self (Pepys); Mary Wollstonecraft; Jane Austin.

David Starkey: Elizabeth I.

Vera Brittan: Testament of Youth.

I also read and enjoyed a bio of Fanny Burney but can't recall author.

rasputin Thu 27-Aug-09 09:41:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

VeryAngryGusset Thu 27-Aug-09 09:43:55

Rasputin, you are on my wavelength! - I've read that one too! Really liked.

rasputin Thu 27-Aug-09 09:49:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

rasputin Thu 27-Aug-09 09:52:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

wigglybeezer Thu 27-Aug-09 10:03:07

I have just read a book from the library (sorry can,t remember the name ATM, must be getting old) that was a biography of Winston churchill's American mother and her two sisters, 'twas very entertaining and covered a lot of history too.

VeryAngryGusset Thu 27-Aug-09 10:08:15

Ooh those all sound interesting - will look them up. Thanks!

wigglybeezer Thu 27-Aug-09 10:09:53

The book I was talking about is called "Fortunes Daughters"

BalloonSlayer Thu 27-Aug-09 10:11:11

My Mum loved "Mrs Jordan's Profession" by Claire Tomalin. Dora Jordan was a famous actress who was the partner of a King, had many children by him but they never married.

I have never read it as I struggle with historical biogs meself - apart from Alison Weir's which I love.

How about the Dickens biography by Peter Ackroyd?

EleanoraBuntingCupcake Thu 27-Aug-09 10:23:43

dh loved Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny.

Pielight Thu 27-Aug-09 12:07:03

I enjoyed the Speer too - heavy going for a beach though.

Also enjoyed the VW book. And more recently Hermione Lee's book about Thomas Hardy, that is v. good.

Also the Mrs Beeton was fun - by Kathryn Hughes - she's also written a great book about George Eliot and also one on Victorian Governesses if you're interested.

There's a lovely book about the poet John Clare by Jonathan Bate that I'd really recommend.

I want to read the Hilary Spurling book about Matisse but haven't yet.

Pielight Thu 27-Aug-09 12:10:45

My favourite historical bio of all time (and think Unequalled Self v. v. hard to beat, about as perfect a bio as I can think of) are Richard Holmes's two books about Coleridge. They are extraordinary. Honestly.

But you do need to care about Coleridge quite a lot (which I do). They're v. detailed, v. clever and v. beautiful.

saadia Thu 27-Aug-09 12:19:35

My fave is Juliet Barker's biography of Charolotte Bronte - full of fascinating historical detail and based quite a bit on CB's correspondence - but it is a pretty hefty book.

Pielight Thu 27-Aug-09 12:21:54

I've just thought of the PERFECT book for you

Among the Bohemians by somebody Nicholson.

perfect for you

VeryAngryGusset Thu 27-Aug-09 12:26:59

Ooh lots of fab ideas here - keep them coming! I think Unequalled Self is the best bio I've read too.

MummyDragon Thu 27-Aug-09 12:27:57

Christopher Hibbert has written some great historical bios. I've read a few of his - the ones about the Medici and Nelson were very good.

Wheelybug Thu 27-Aug-09 12:48:22

Kate Williams - England's mistress - about Emma Hamilton, Nelson's mistress. V. good

Also, she wrote one about Queen Victoria - 'Becoming Queen'. I have it on my to be reads but haven't yet but her style is v. readable.

Also, The Mitford girls by Mary S Lovell. Great - v readable.

ninedragons Thu 27-Aug-09 13:04:31

Samurai William by Giles Milton. Absolutely riveting.

Botbot Thu 27-Aug-09 13:08:48

I quite enjoyed this one. Less well-known subject, but v. interesting.

Pielight Thu 27-Aug-09 13:11:14

ah yes, the Pepys was wonderful - but the Holmes books about Coleridge are better! Actually it's not a race is it. But the Coleridge books have that same extraordinary sense that the biographer has somehow put on the subjects clothes, that their sense of empathy and understanding is interwoven with their objectivity. So difficult to pull off, so wonderful when they do.

RustyBear Thu 27-Aug-09 13:13:30

I loved Maureen Waller's Ungrateful Daughters, about James II's daughters Mary & Anne. I'm currently reading 'Sovereign Ladies' by the same author, about England's 6 sovereign queens (Mary I, Elizabeth I, MaryII, Anne, Victoria & Elizabeth II)which is very good, but a bit big for the beach & I don't think it's in paperback yet.

My favourite Alison Weir is the one about Eleanor of Aquitaine, subtitled 'By the wrath of God, Queen of England' grin

RustyBear Thu 27-Aug-09 13:26:21

Oh, and not actually biography, but Liza Picard's series of books on London in various ages (Restoration London,Elizabeth's London, Dr. Johnson's London,Victorian London) are a good read and very interesting.

DuchessOfAvon Thu 27-Aug-09 13:32:26

Also not a biog but I found it utterly fascinating:

William Dalrymple - White Mughals.

All about how the early British colonials "went native" before the uptight Late Victorians came along and dealt out Christianity and repression.

crumpet Thu 27-Aug-09 13:41:05

The Viceroy's Daughters

A recent one by Frances Osborne - can't remember the name (was meant to be the prototype for Nancy Mitford's bolter character)

Have you read the Duchess?

Aristocrats - about the Lennox sisters

crumpet Thu 27-Aug-09 13:42:27

Sex Lives of the Popes!

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