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Lions and Shadows (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 23 May 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (23 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099561220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099561224
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 403,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The best prose writer in English" (Gore Vidal)

"The writing is, as always, very clear, very moving and very funny" (The Times)

Book Description

Isherwood's evocative and sensitive account of childhood and youth in the 1920s.

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By Bob Sherunkle VINE VOICE on 10 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
In his preface, Isherwood states that this is not an autobiography "in the ordinary journalistic sense of the word" (whatever that means). His intention is to write a quasi-novel which describes "the first stage in the lifelong education of a novelist". Unless he was worried about any lawsuits, he may as well have written it as a conventional biography; W H Auden and Edward Upward, for example, are unmistakable despite their thinly disguised names ("Weston"/Wystan!)

The story starts with Isherwood in the sixth form, one of a history set being coached by their teacher in the black arts of gaining entrance to Oxbridge. (Sound familiar?) He then proceeds to Cambridge, where his sole occupation is a continual and feverish literary dialogue with "Chalmers" (Upward). Isherwood says: "Never in my life have I been so strongly attracted to any personality." ( Their relationship produced the elaborate Gothic English fantasy world of "Mortmere", born from their obscure literary tastes and an urge to seek out the odder aspects of Cambridge, whether town or gown. See the complete Mortmere Stories or Upward's The Railway Accident.) This liaison is purely platonic, but absorbed Isherwood so much that he completely neglected his studies and eventually engineered an early exit from Cambridge.

Isherwood then describes his dilettante life during the mid 1920s. He feels that he would never pass "The Test", being the weak antithesis of "the truly strong man". Finally he decides, apparently quite quickly, to join "Weston"/Auden in Berlin. (He doesn't admit what the attraction of Berlin was for him, but it's common knowledge now.)

Much as I love this book - first read 40 years ago after seeing Cabaret - I have to say it is good, but not great, for two reasons.
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