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Bernard Shaw: A Biography [Paperback]

Michael Holroyd
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

9 July 1998
Holroyd has done a masterly job of cutting down his huge biography to a lively and manageable one-volume life - the definitive Shaw for the general reader and the student. It has verve and pace, the light and shade of his life are emphasized, digressions cut, and Shaw comes over just as much larger than life as he always was, just as contrary, and even more sympathetically and movingly portrayed. This is a dazzling portrait of the man and his age.


Product details

  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (9 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099749017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099749011
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 402,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Michael Holroyd is the distinguished British biographer of writer Lytton Strachey (whose life formed the basis of the film Carrington) as well as the painter Augustus John. But his voluminous biography of writer George Bernard Shaw--the author of Pygmalion (made into the musical My Fair Lady)--originally published in four volumes, is probably his masterwork. This newly abridged one-volume edition has the virtue of cutting the documentation--which will be missed only by other scholars on Shaw--and is aimed squarely at the general reader, who will find here an entertaining survey with a wide base of interest. Unlike other recent books on Shaw that focus on a single aspect such as sexuality or politics, Holroyd's approach is general and quite successful. One feels that the biographer has grasped what was important to Shaw at each crucial moment of his life. Thus the biography becomes a kind of companion to the life, discreetly pointing out features of interest, but never overly imposing Holroyd's own personality, though there are some wry observations--such as those about Shaw's estate in recent years--that indicate Holroyd's dry wit. Though not short at 704 pages, there are no longueurs, and this book is a fine example of biography at its best, a must for literature collections. --Benjamin Ivry

About the Author

Michael Holroyd was born in 1935 and is half-Swedish and partly Irish. Recognised as one of the greatest biographers of our time, he is the author of acclaimed biographies of Hugh Kingsmill, Lytton Strachey, Augustus John, and Shaw. He was awarded the CBE in 1989. Born in London, he now lives in London and Somerset and is married to author Margaret Drabble.

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1 of 19 people found the following review helpful
I just wanted to mention this book as a perhaps unexpected source on the way 'socialism' became contaminated into a euphemism for totalitarianism. Holroyd takes himself seriously as a biographer; there's plenty of detail. There's abundant material on Beatrice Webb, and 'Sidney Webb' - I think I'm right in saying the real name is never given. There's material on trust money which 'Webb' used to help set up the LSE. It is a fact (see e.g. Belloc) that Britain's theatre land was dominated by Jews, and it seem likely that Shaw's success, when it finally came (he was about 40 - according to Max Beerbohm!) was due to promotional activity. Certainly it's hard to judge his plays - plays are in any case hard to read, since the reader of course has to try to bear in mind all the multiple characters' beliefs and outlooks. The fact these plays are hardly ever presented now, and haven't been for decades, suggest that 'booming' was necessary for them. The filmed versions included the lightweight 'My Fair Lady'. Later in life, to quote Russell, Shaw was 'led into rather absurd adulation of Stalin'. (I think 'led to' was correct - in Russell's Autobiography).
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