Next in the Brief Lives series is Ackroyd’s enthralling biography of famed nineteenth century novelist Wilkie Collins. Author of The Woman In White and The Moonstone, Collins died of old age in 1889.
‘This biography is compulsive reading.’ Economist
‘You can see why Peter Ackroyd would pick Wilkie Collins as his next biographical subject. Everything about that odd little man makes him perfectly fitted to roam through Ackroyd’s imaginative universe. For a start Collins was a Londoner, bred in the city that has always been Ackroyd’s first love, a major character in so many of his novels and non-fiction books. More specifically Collins, who was born in 1824, lived at that time which Ackroyd does best, the moment when the world became recognisably modern. Collins’s – and Ackroyd’s – high-Victorian London is a place of hectic togetherness and soulful isolation. Bodies pack into music halls, jostle on buses and in taverns. But they are forced apart, too, obliged to scuttle home to single rooms and separate lives, reaching out to each other through the impersonal touch of the postal service and the law. It is a landscape where a man can deliberately lose himself, yet still meet his own shadow coming round the corner.’ Guardian
‘Ackroyd reminds you what an insightful writer he can be, as when he describes an early Collins novel where “the chapters succeed one another in beautiful monotony, like waves crashing on the Tahitian shore”.’
‘As Ackroyd says, Collins was “perhaps the most sweet-tempered of Victorian novelists”. Having a sweet-tempered subject often spells disaster for a biography, but mercifully Collins’s domestic arrangements were sufficiently exotic to dispel any worries.’ Evening Standard
‘Told with Peter Ackroyd’s inimitable verve this is a ravishingly entertaining life of a great story-teller, full of surprises, rich in humour and sympathetic understanding.’ BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week
- Chatto & Windus UK
Material: finished copies (144pp)