A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families by Michael Holroyd

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I’m a great reader of biographies, which I think of as a very English-language genre (think how poor Spanish literature is in this regard). Biography is also a broad category that could encompass anything from a book of joined-up press-clippings of a star to the works of scholarship that take decades to complete. My favourite writer of biography has been Michael Holroyd and I’ve loved reading his doorstoppers on Shaw, Strachey and Augusts John. My favourite of his books has been this remarkable telling of the extraordinary life of Ellen Terry that encompasses the various historical and social contexts in which she moved, and that is also a telling of at least one history of the developments in the English theatre from the 19th Century onwards, with an accent on prevalent performance styles; to, through her children, the director Edith Craig, and particularly through the extraordinary designs of her son, Edward Gordon Craig, the modern theatre. The research is extraordinary, the narration of it clear and exciting, the approach gentle and inclusive. How do these books affect your life? Well you look on, learn, compare; and in the best of these works, such as this one, through the life, you learn of the varied complexities of an art, a politics and a culture. Also, maybe, a little bit about yourself.

José Arroyo

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