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Claire Harman's biography of Sylvia Townsend Warner was published in 1989 by Chatto (Minerva pb 1990) and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for a book of value from a writer of growing stature. She was Co-ordinating Editor of PN Review from 1981 to 1984; has written short stories for radio; written for most of the major British literary papers; and edited Sylvia Townsend Warners Diaries (1994) to wide acclaim. She has taught 19th and 20th century literature at Manchester University and now lives in Oxford with her daughter and two sons.
She was raised motherless on remote Yorkshire moors and sent away to brutally strict boarding school at a young age. She watched helpless growing up as, one by one, her five beloved siblings sickened and died; by the end of her short life, she was the only child of the Bronte clan remaining. And most fascinating and tragic of all, throughout her adult life she was haunted by a great and unrequited love - a love that tortured Charlotte but also inspired some of the most moving, intense and revolutionary novels ever written in the English language. Charlotte was a literary visionary, a feminist trailblazer and the driving force behind the whole Bronte family. She encouraged her sister Emily to publish Wuthering Heights when no-one else believed in her talent. She took charge of the family's precarious finances when her brilliant but feckless brother Branwell succumbed to opium addiction. She travelled from Yorkshire to Europe to the bright lights of London, met some of the most brilliant literary minds of her generation (Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, William Thackeray), and became a bestselling female author in a world still dominated by men. And in each of her books, from Villette and Shirley to her most famous, Jane Eyre, Charlotte created brand new kinds of heroines, inspired by herself and her life, fiercely intelligent women burning with hidden passions. This beautifully-produced, landmark biography is essential reading for every fan of the Bronte family's writing, from Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights. This is the literary biography of the year; if you loved Claire Tomalins Charles Dickens, this event is not to be missed.
The first life story of Stevenson to be written with access to his collected correspondence. Harmanâ€™s previous book (on Fanny Burney) was shortlisted for the Whitbread
One of the Guardian's '50 Biggest Books of Autumn 2018' Early in the morning of 6 May 1840, on an ultra-respectable Mayfair street, a footman answered the door to a panic-stricken maid from a nearby house. Her elderly master, Lord William Russell, was lying in bed with his throat cut so deeply that the head was almost severed. The whole of London, from monarch to street urchins, was gripped by the gory details of the Russell murder, but behind it was another story, a work of fiction, and a fierce debate about censorship and morality. Several of the key literary figures of the day, including Dickens and Thackeray, were drawn into the controversy, and when Lord William's murderer claimed to having been inspired by the season's most sensational novel, it seemed that a great deal more was on trial than anyone could have guessed. Bringing together much previously unpublished material from a wide range of sources, Claire Harman reveals the story of the notorious Russell murder case and its fascinating connections with the writers and literary culture of the day. Gripping and eye-opening, Murder by the Book is the untold true story of a surprisingly literary crime. 'This beautifully produced and impressively researched historical account of a celebrated Victorian murder with a literary twist reads like a thriller. I devoured it in one sitting, and was at once enthralled and chilled. Highly recommended!' Alison Weir
The definitive biography of an extraordinary novelist, by acclaimed literary biographer Claire Harman 'There was no possibility of taking a walk that day . . .' With these words Charlotte Bronte began Jane Eyre and changed English literature irrevocably. Now, on the 200th anniversary of Charlotte's birth, Claire Harman's landmark biography provides a bold new view of one of Britain's best loved writers, uncovering an inner life that touched the furthest extremes of human emotion. Harman shows us an intense and troubled young woman from an astonishingly creative family, whose early works were produced in total secrecy. Struggling against the conventional limitations of both life and literature, Charlotte created a new kind of heroine which both shocked and inspired her Victorian contemporaries. Love, loss, ambition and heartbreak: the anonymous author poured everything into her ground-breaking books, but lived it first.
Winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize 'One of the most shamefully under-read great British authors of the past 100 years' Sarah Waters The poet Sylvia Townsend Warner rose to sudden fame with the publication of her classic feminist novel Lolly Willowes in 1926, but never became a conventional member of London literary life, pursuing instead a long writing career in her own individualistic manner. Cheerfully defying social norms of the day, Warner lived in an openly homosexual relationship with the poet Valentine Ackland for almost forty years. Together, they were committed members of the Communist party and travelled twice to Spain during the Civil War, but Warner paid for her outspokenness with years of neglect, and channelled much of her emotional and intellectual energy into letters, poems and heart-breaking diaries that remained unpublished during her lifetime. In this enthralling and enlightening biography, Claire Harman tells the story of Warner's remarkable life and restores her to her rightful place as one of Britain's most unique and brilliant writers. As passionate and truthful, elegant and enchanting as its subject. George D Painter Harman skilfully weaves Sylvia's stories and letters into the biography, and the brilliance of the samples on display constantly takes you aback... Outstanding Sunday Times
Part biography and part cultural history, this splendid book not only tells the captivating story of Jane Austen's life, but also her literary legacy. The slow growth of Austen's fame, the changing status of her work, and what it has stood for in English culture is a story of personal struggle and family dynamics as well as a history of critical practices and changing public tastes. Jane's Fame is essential reading for anyone interested in Austen's life, works and unshakable appeal.
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