A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers [NOOK Book]

Overview

A Time Magazine Top 10 Nonfiction book of 2011


A Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction title for 2011




On a hill above the Italian village of Ravello sits the Villa Cimbrone, a place of fantasy and make-believe. The characters that move through Michael Holroyd's new book are destined never to meet, yet the Villa Cimbrone unites them all.



A Book of Secrets is a treasure trove of hidden lives, uncelebrated ...

See more details below
A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

A Time Magazine Top 10 Nonfiction book of 2011


A Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction title for 2011




On a hill above the Italian village of Ravello sits the Villa Cimbrone, a place of fantasy and make-believe. The characters that move through Michael Holroyd's new book are destined never to meet, yet the Villa Cimbrone unites them all.



A Book of Secrets is a treasure trove of hidden lives, uncelebrated achievements, and family mysteries. With grace and tender imagination, Holroyd brings a company of unknown women into the light. From Alice Keppel, the mistress of both the second Lord Grimthorpe and the Prince of Wales; to Eve Fairfax, a muse of Auguste Rodin; to the novelist Violet Trefusis, the lover of Vita Sackville-West--these women are always on the periphery of the respectable world.



Also on the margins is the elusive biographer, who on occasion turns an appraising eye upon himself as part of his investigations in the maze of biography. In A Book of Secrets, Holroyd gives voice to fragile human connections and the mystery of place.




Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
Mr. Holroyd is an impeccable writer and researcher, a man whose books are packed with intricate detail yet retain a buoyancy. They are aerodynamic; they run as silently as gliders…[A Book of Secrets] is a richly marbled meditation not only on the lives of several remarkable women but also on the art of biography itself.
—The New York Times
Toni Bentley
From the first page A Book of Secrets casts the spell of a time long gone, of loves endured and lost, expectations dashed on the rocks of reality, of inner desires forever stilled, casting their shadows into history. It is written with the kind of elegance, ease and simplicity possible only from a master craftsman who has flown far beyond any learning curve and is relishing his free fall. He carries us as if on a magic carpet from one character to the next, and one time period to the next, with consummate grace. Holroyd is a kind of Fred Astaire on the page, his many steps becoming one grand, profound design.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Award-winning biographer Holroyd takes on an interesting task here: he starts with the Villa Cimbrone, located in the hills above Ravello, Italy, and then profiles the intriguing people who have passed through its halls, e.g., Rodin muse Eve Fairfax and Vita Sackville-West's lover, Violet Trefusis. Absorbing for the smart set.
From the Publisher
Intoxicating . . . Burst[s] with the tremendous generosity of its author . . . From the first page A Book of Secrets casts the spell of a time long gone, of loves endured and lost, expectations dashed on the rocks of reality, of inner desires forever stilled, casting their shadows into history. It is written with the kind of elegance, ease and simplicity possible only from a master craftsman who has flown far beyond any learning curve and is relishing his free fall. [Holroyd] carries us as if on a magic carpet from one character to the next, and one time period to the next, with consummate grace. Holroyd is a kind of Fred Astaire on the page, his many steps becoming one grand, profound design . . . [H]is heart and humor bounce in vibrant rays off every hot-blooded, lovelorn, crazy, jealous and joyous woman—and what enlightened being would have any woman be otherwise?—in his book . . . A Book of Secrets is a book of magic, a sleight of hand by a master conjurer singing his swan song, sweetly, softly, with piercing wit and overwhelming compassion, his poetry in prose evoking a time past, with all its outrageous obsessions, its illegal passions, its melancholy perfume.” —Toni Bentley, The New York Times Book Review

“Michael Holroyd is that rare biographer who is read for himself as much as for the sake of his subject . . .  It is hard to see how Mr. Holroyd could do better than this book.” —Carl Rollyson, The Wall Street Journal

A Book of Secrets frequently casts a rosy comic glow . . . Mr. Holroyd is an impeccable writer and researcher, a man whose books are packed with intricate detail yet retain a buoyancy. They are aerodynamic; they run as silently as gliders . . . This book is a richly marbled meditation not only on the lives of several remarkable women but also on the art of biography itself . . . [Holroyd’s] new book contains many fine moments during which, holding on with white knuckles, you might hear yourself cry, ‘Brilliant!’” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Master raconteur and biographer of Bernard Shaw and Lytton Strachey, the always elegant Holroyd is at the top of his game . . . Holroyd writes like an angel and memorably draws the rivulets of these fluid lives together.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A Book of Secrets is truly a book of revelations, of sudden, emotional jolts . . . The work of a master-biographer at the height of his powers . . . A beautifully structured narrative, punctuated by surprises and dazzling shifts in focus.” —Daisy Hay, The Daily Telegraph

“It’s a testament to Holroyd’s dexterity that this big, densely populated canvas never feels cluttered or confusing . . . As is always the case with Holroyd, the reader comes away equally inspired, equally curious, and lavishly entertained by a story-teller of the first rank.” —Lee Randall, The Scotsman

Richly evocative and beautifully written . . . Holroyd’s skills as a researcher and detective are fully deployed, in miniature; and only a master could pull off such a book.” —Anne Chisholm, The Spectator

Library Journal
In his preface Holroyd calls this the "third and final volume in a series that began with Basil Street Blues." That book was a memoir of his youth; this one is more biographical and labyrinthine. Eminent biographer Holroyd (Lytton Strachey: The New Biography) inserts himself into the book as he describes his investigative path in exploring the life of Ernest Beckett, second Baron Grimthorpe, and the women (wife, mistresses, daughters) in Beckett's life, centering on the Villa Cimbrone in Italy. Readers familiar with Edwardian England will recognize and learn more about Alice Keppel, mistress of the future Edward VII, and her daughter Violet Keppel Trefusis, among others. Eventually, Holroyd meets and travels with Beckett's granddaughter to the villa. VERDICT The book is best for the reader well studied in this era and its learning; it has untranslated French and Latin phrases scattered throughout. Fans of the exploits of the early 20th-century British nobility and literary aristocracy will enjoy this gently entertaining history. The lack of source notes will make it hard, however, to trace the documents from which Holroyd quotes.—Megan Hodge, Randolph-Macon Coll. Lib., Ashland, VA
Kirkus Reviews

An elegiac work of literary archaeology by the knighted British biographer of Bernard Shaw and Lytton Strachey.

As the third volume of his memoirs—afterBasil Street Blues (2000) andMosaic (2004)—which similarly offer an intriguing mix of biography and autobiography ("I seek invisibility behind the subjects I am trying to bring alive on the page"), Holroyd (A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families, 2009, etc.) focuses here on the lives of two Bloomsbury-era women who were linked to the same man. Visits to the literary mecca Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, Italy, put the author on the track of a former owner of the house, an English dilettante, ex-banker, widower and Edwardian patron of the arts, Ernest Beckett turned Lord Grimthorpe, who commissioned a bust in 1901 from Rodin of Beckett's fiancée, Eve Fairfax, only to jilt her soon after. Left with the bill, Evenonetheless charmed the great, now-aged French sculptor, and over the next eight years their friendship flowered. The bust eventually sold (with his permission) in order to help support this intelligent, cultured woman who would remain unmarried and of scant independent means. Holroyd was able to locate Eve's precious diary, which he calls her book of secrets, in which she accumulated autographs, photos of dear friends, scraps of poems and memories that record what she believed was a "useful" life. The other main protagonist is the legendary literary sprite, novelist and muse Violet Trefusis, Beckett's illegitimate daughter. Holroyd delved into the novels and life of Trefusis, delineating her torrid, life-transforming affair with Vita Sackville-West, and he quotes amply from their correspondence for a lively, satisfying adventure. Literary enthusiasts will delight in this lovely narrative for its own sake.

Purportedly Holroyd's "last book," this is an elegant literary study by a seasoned biographer and wonderfully engaging writer.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429969215
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 8/2/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 749,743
  • File size: 354 KB

Meet the Author

Michael Holroyd is the author of acclaimed biographies of George Bernard Shaw, the painter Augustus John, Lytton Strachey, and Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, as well as two memoirs, Basil Street Blues and Mosaic. Knighted for his services to literature, he is the president emeritus of the Royal Society of Literature and the only nonfiction writer to have been awarded the David Cohen British Prize for Literature. His previous book, A Strange Eventful History, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 2009. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Margaret Drabble.




Michael Holroyd is the author of acclaimed biographies of George Bernard Shaw, the painter Augustus John, Lytton Strachey, and Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, as well as two memoirs, Basil Street Blues and Mosaic. Knighted for his services to literature, he is the president emeritus of the Royal Society of Literature and the only nonfiction writer to have been awarded the David Cohen British Prize for Literature. His previous book, A Strange Eventful History, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 2009. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Margaret Drabble.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


Book of Secrets, A
PART IAcknowledgementsI am particularly grateful to my two dedicatees, Tiziana Masucci and Catherine Till, who guided me so sympathetically and with such perseverance during the long, interrupted quest that grew into this book.Others who have helped me include Vivien Allen, Lucy Beckett, the late Sir Martyn Beckett, Michael Berry, Mary Rose Blacker, Simon Blow, Virginia Charteris, Judy Collingwood, Douglas Croft, Peter Dench, Charles Dodsworth, Paul Evans, the late Fiona Fairfax, James Fergusson, the Rev. Sir Timothy Forbes-Adams, Ken Giggal, Victoria Glendinning, the late Christopher Grimthorpe, Marion J. Hare, Felicity Harrison, Marjorie Harrison, Frances Holt, David Hughes, the late Lady Serena James, Judith Landry, Helen Langdon, Rupert Lycett-Green, Adam Nicolson, the late Nigel Nicolson, Suzanne O'Farrell, Roger Packham, John Phillips, the late Georgina Ratcliffe, David S. Rymer, Harvey Sachs, Anne Sidamon-Eristoff, the late Sir Reresby Sitwell, Diana Souhami, Alexander and Serena Sparks, Jean Strouse, Hugo Vickers, Gore Vidal, Giorgio Vuilleumier, Jane Wellesley, Ursula and David Westbury.I am also indebted to the following libraries, galleries and institutions: Eton College Library (archivist Penelope Hatfield), Fairfax House(Peter Brown), Johannesburg Art Gallery (Jillian Carman, Eleanor Lorimer and Thembinkosi Mabaso), Leeds Metropolitan Library (Professor Lori Beckett), The Retreat at York (chief executive Derek Thomson), Tate Library and Archive, Millbank (Lisa Cole, Gallery Records Assistant Curator, and John Langdon), City of York Library Service (local studies librarian Amanda Howard) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (Marjorie Trusted, deputy custodian, sculpture department, and Linda Lloyd-Jones).I would like to thank Caradoc King and Robert Lescher, my British and American literary agents, for having steered the text so tenderly towards publication. The book has benefited from the enterprise of my publisher Clara Farmer and the scrutiny of my editor Juliet Brooke at Chatto & Windus; also from the attention and encouragement of Jonathan Galassi and Courtney Hodell at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I am grateful to the eagle-eyed copy-editor Ilsa Yardley for saving me from various humiliations, and for the work of my jacket designer Nayon Cho.Finally I thank Margaret, my wife, for her patience and incredulous encouragement.Copyright © 2010 by Michael Holroyd
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xv

Acknowledgements xvii

Preface: The World Turned Upside Down 1

Part I

1 The Importance of Being Ernest and Some Women of No Importance 7

2 Ernest Goes Abroad 49

3 All About Eve 69

4 With Catherine at Cimbrone 97

Part II

5 Excitements, Earthquakes and Elopements 125

6 Women in Love 141

7 Ultraviolet 175

8 Emergency Exits 191

9 Looking Round 219

Epilogue: Time Regained 229

Afterword: A History of the Books 233

Postscript 243

Family Trees 248

Select Bibliography 251

Index 257

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 6, 2011

    Book

    This is a very good book i think

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Could not finish

    Went from historical novel to book review. Got bored after a while.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 15, 2011

    Not what I expected

    Disappointed.....hard to recommend

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2014

    jasmine baldwin

    just started reading so stupid ehy is it this boring snd to long

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)