One of my favourite biographers is Claire Tomalin (pictured above). Her books about famous writers have given me enormous pleasure. She is a measured, intelligent analyst of her subjects and a fine writer.
Her prize-winning Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self is a delightful introduction to Pepys if you have not yet discovered how addictive he can be. Of course, I also love her Jane Austen: A Life. She has done two books about Dickens – the ground-breaking The Invisible Woman about Dickens’ mistress Nelly Ternan (they made a film based on the biography) and her excellent Charles Dickens: A Life which is particularly good on the women in Dickens’ life. One biography I especially loved is Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man which made me rush back to the poetry (Hardy always saw himself as a poet first, a novelist second).
One of Tomalin’s first biographies was about my compatriot Katherine Mansfield, one of the world’s finest writers of short stories (Virginia Woolf once commented that Katherine Mansfield was the only writer she’d ever felt jealous of). If you have not yet discovered the genius of this NZ writer, try Tomalin’s Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life, or read Mansfield’s The Doll’s House which is one of the most moving short stories in the world.
Discover Katherine Mansfield’s greatness as a writer and hear her fascinating life-story, including readings, on my audio CD, Finding Katherine Mansfield.
Katherine Mansfield’s birth city of Wellington put up a great statue of Katherine in 2013. It’s one of my favourite literary statues. Do you have a favourite statue of a writer? Is there a literary biographer whose works you love or who you think can compare with Claire Tomalin? Please tell me by leaving a comment.
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