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Ten Great Biographies

4th September 2023

Ten Great BiographiesTen Great Biographies. A biography is defined as the story of someone’s life written by somebody else, and there are over 130 of them in the TripFiction data base. They cover the lives of both the famous and the less well known from right across the world.

Here are ten of our favourites

Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown by Alison Weir – ENGLAND

Six wives. One King. You know their stories. Now it’s time to hear his.

The magnificent new Tudor novel from the author of the Sunday Times-bestselling Six Tudor Queens series.

A second son, not born to rule, becomes a man, and a king…

In grand royal palaces, Prince Harry grows up dreaming of knights and chivalry – and the golden age of kings that awaits his older brother. But Arthur’s untimely death sees Harry crowned King Henry of England.

As his power and influence extends, so commences a lifelong battle between head and heart, love and duty. Henry rules by divine right, yet his prayers for a son go unanswered.

The great future of the Tudor dynasty depends on an heir. And the crown weighs heavy on a king with all but his one true desire.

HENRY VIII. HIS STORY.

Alison Weir’s most ambitious Tudor novel yet reveals the captivating story of a man who was by turns brilliant, romantic, and ruthless: the king who changed England forever.

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Ten Great BiographiesSnow Widows by Katherine MacInnes – ANTARCTICA

The men of Captain Scott’s Polar Party were heroes of their age, enduring tremendous hardships to further the reputation of the Empire they served by reaching the South Pole. But they were also husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.

For the first time, the story of the race for the South Pole is told from the perspective of the women whose lives would be forever changed by it, five women who offer a window into a lost age and a revealing insight into the thoughts and feelings of the five heroes.

Kathleen Scott, the fierce young wife of the expedition leader, campaigned relentlessly for Scott’s reputation, but did her ambition for glory drive her husband to take unnecessary risks? Oriana Wilson, a true help-mate and partner to the expedition’s doctor, was a scientific mind in her own right and understood more than most what the men faced in Antarctica. Emily Bowers was a fervent proponent of Empire, having spent much of her life as a missionary teacher in the colonies. The indomitable Caroline Oates was the very picture of decorum and everything an Edwardian woman aspired to be, but she refused all invitations to celebrate her son Laurie’s noble sacrifice. Lois Evans led a harder life than the other women, constantly on the edge of poverty and forced to endure the media’s classist assertions that her husband Taff, the sole ‘Jack Tar’ in a band of officers, must have been responsible for the party’s downfall. Her story, brought to light through new archival research, is shared here for the first time.

In a gripping and remarkable feat of historical reconstruction, Katherine MacInnes vividly depicts the lives, loves and losses of five women shaped by the unrelenting culture of Empire and forced into the public eye by tragedy. It also reveals the five heroes, not as the caricatures of legend, but as the real people they were.

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Raffles and the Golden Opportunity by Victoria Glendinning – SINGAPORE

Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) was the charismatic and persuasive founder of Singapore and Governor of Java. An English adventurer, disobedient employee of the East India Company, utopian imperialist, linguist, zoologist and civil servant, he carved an extraordinary (though brief) life for himself in South East Asia. The tropical, disease-ridden settings of his story are as dramatic as his own trajectory – an obscure young man with no advantages other than talent and obsessive drive, who changed history by establishing – without authority – on the wretchedly unpromising island of Singapore, a settlement which has become a world city. After a turbulent time in the East Indies, Raffles returned to the UK and turned to his other great interests – botany and zoology. He founded London Zoo in 1826, the year of his death. Raffles remains a controversial figure, and in the first biography for over forty years, Victoria Glendinning charts his prodigious rise within the social and historical contexts of his world. His domestic and personal life was vivid and shot through with tragedy. His own end was sad, though his fame immortal.

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The Pornographer of Vienna by Lewis Crofts – VIENNA

Schiele is the son of a railway inspector, he rejects his traditional upbringing and searches for artistic fulfilment. He is drawn to portray the louche social society of Veinna in the fin de siècle, but is rejected by the artistic cognoscenti. Despite poverty and imprisonment he is still determined to pursue his artistic calling and in the last months of his life finds critical acclaim denied him during his lifetime. A fabulous depiction of both the artist and the city.

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Galileo’s Daughter by Dave Sobel – FLORENCE

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was the foremost scientist of his day, ‘the father of modern physics – indeed of modern science altogether’ in the words of Albert Einstein. Though he never left the Italy of his birth, his inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. His telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to defend the astounding proposition that the Earth actually moves around the Sun. For this belief he faced the Holy Office of the Inquisition and was subsequently tried for heresy and threatened with torture. Galileo is brought to life here as never before – a man boldly compelled to explain the truths he discovered, human in his frailties and faith, devoted to family and, especially, to his daughter. Since there could be no hope of marriage for his illegitimate daughter Galileo placed her, aged thirteen, in a convent near him in Florence. She proved to be his greatest source of strength through his most difficult years. Through letters, contemporary writings, their voices are brought to vivid life and woven into Dava Sobel’s compelling narrative. Galileo’s Daughter tells the story of the most dramatic collision in history between science and religion. Dava Sobel illuminates an entire era, when the flamboyant Medici Grand Dukes became Galileo’s patrons, when the Bubonic plague destroyed a generation and prayer was the most effective medicine, when one man fought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through his telescope. Galileo’s Daughter is a rich and unforgettable story.

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Ten Great BiographiesBombay Anna by Susan Morgan – THAILAND

If you thought you knew the story of Anna in The King and I, think again. As this riveting biography shows, the real life of Anna Leonowens was far more fascinating than the beloved story of the Victorian governess who went to work for the King of Siam. To write this definitive account, Susan Morgan traveled around the globe and discovered new information that has eluded researchers for years. Anna was born a poor, mixed-race army brat in India, and what followed is an extraordinary nineteenth-century story of savvy self-invention, wild adventure, and far-reaching influence. At a time when most women stayed at home, Anna Leonowens traveled all over the world, witnessed some of the most fascinating events of the Age of Empire, and became a well-known travel writer, journalist, teacher, and lecturer. She remains the one and only foreigner to have spent significant time inside the royal harem of Siam. She emigrated to the United States, crossed all of Russia on her own just before the revolution, and moved to Canada, where she publicly defended the rights of women and the working class. The book also gives an engrossing account of how and why Anna became an icon of American culture in The King and I and its many adaptations.

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Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara by Jorge Castaneda – SOUTH AMERICA

Ernesto Che Guevara, an Argentinian doctor of middle-class parents, rose to fight with Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution and later tried to spread that revolution in other countries in Latin America and Africa.

This is an account of a man who became a cultural icon to a generation.

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Kiki de Montparnasse by Jose-Luis Bocquet and Cate Muller (illustrator) – PARIS

In the bohemian and brilliant Montparnasse of the 1920s, Kiki managed to escape poverty to become one of the most charismatic figures of the avant-garde years between the wars. Partner to Man Ray – whose most legendary photos she inspired – she would be immortalised by Kisling, Foujita, Per Krohg, Calder, Utrillo and Leger. Kiki is the muse of a generation that seeks to escape the hangover of the Great War, but she is above all one of the first emancipated women of the 20th century.

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One-Armed Jack: Uncovering the Real Jack the Ripper by Sarah Bax Horton – LONDON

Using a different analytical approach, for the first time, Sarah Bax Horton identifies a named perpetrator as Jack the Ripper by linking eye-witness accounts of the killer’s distinctive physical characteristics to his official medical records. It argues that his broken left arm, which left him unable to work in early 1888, was one of his triggers to kill as part of a serious physical and mental decline caused by severe epilepsy.

This new perpetrator fits the profile as stated by the police of the day: a local man of low class of whom they became aware after the final murder, when they launched an unsuccessful surveillance operation against him. As has never been done before, the author – an experienced former government researcher with specific expertise in research and analysis – formulates a complete analysis of the killer and his methodology, including how he accosted his victims, where he took them to their deaths, his unique modus operandi of a blitz-style attack, and how he escaped from each crime scene without detection.

Each of the six murders – from Martha Tabram to Marie Kelly – is discussed and reconstructed as perpetrated by this man, with his escalating violence clearly demonstrated.

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The Magician by Colm Tóibín – EUROPE

From one of our greatest living writers comes a sweeping novel of unrequited love and exile, war and family.

The Magician tells the story of Thomas Mann, whose life was filled with great acclaim and contradiction. He would find himself on the wrong side of history in the First World War, cheerleading the German army, but have a clear vision of the future in the second, anticipating the horrors of Nazism.

He would have six children and keep his homosexuality hidden; he was a man forever connected to his family and yet bore witness to the ravages of suicide. He would write some of the greatest works of European literature, and win the Nobel Prize, but would never return to the country that inspired his creativity.

Through one life, Colm Tóibín tells the breathtaking story of the twentieth century.

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Enjoy our selection of Biographies!

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