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About the book
  • Published: 2 January 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099548942
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $19.99

A Book of Secrets

Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers

A masterfully atmospheric book of hidden lives and family secrets from the celebrated biographer

A Book of Secrets is a masterfully atmospheric treasure-trove of hidden lives, uncelebrated achievements and family mysteries.

Acclaimed biographer Michael Holroyd peers into dusty corners to bring a company of unknown women into the light; Alice Keppel was the mistress of both the second Lord Grimthorpe and the Prince of Wales; Eve Fairfax was Lord Grimthorpe's abandoned fiancée and sometime muse of Auguste Rodin; and the novelist Violet Trefusis was the lover of Vita Sackville-West.

Taking the reader on a journey of discovery from Ravello to Paris, from Kirkstall Grange in Yorkshire to Vita Sackville-West's home at Knole, A Book of Secrets lucidly gives voice to fragile human connections.

  • Pub date: 2 January 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099548942
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Michael Holroyd

Besides the Lives of Augustus John, Bernard Shaw and Lytton Strachey (which was filmed as Carrington), Michael Holroyd has written two volumes of memoirs, Basil Street Blues and Mosaic. His most recent book, A Strange Eventful History, winner of the James Tait Black Prize for Biography, was a biography of theatre greats Ellen Terry and Henry Irving and their children. He has been president of the Royal Society of Literature and is the first non-fiction writer to have been awarded the British Literature Prize. He lives in London and Somerset with his wife, the novelist Margaret Drabble.

Also by Michael Holroyd

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Praise for A Book of Secrets

“A subtle paean to the art of biography. It is a biographical experiment, but a deeply humane and sensitive one. It glows with the energy of lives investigated, restored, reanimated and celebrated.”

Sarah Bakewell, Sunday Times

“Here, he has given us the distilled essence of biography and a fitting end to what he evokes as "the comedy of life".”

Lisa Appignanesi, Observer

“As is always the case with Holroyd, the reader comes away equally inspired, equally curious, and lavishly entertained by a story-teller of the first rank”


“A small gem of humanity, curiosity and observation with a wonderful, rolling undercurrent of comedy”

Sunday Telegraph

“Scintillating... Holroyd's book is a sly, inconclusive and utterly bewitching dance through the elusive narrative echoes that make up the biographer's art”


“A prince among biographers”

Boyd Tonkin, Independent, Christmas round up

“Beautifully and immaculately written”

Country Life

“[The book] displays all the wisdom of a long life in a story linking the author with the lives of three extraordinary women connected over the centuries by an opulent Amalfi Coast villa”

Psychologies Magazine - Mariella Frostrup

“A touching story of human frailty”

Leslie McDowell, Independent on Sunday

“Humane and sensitive, his book glows with the energy of lives restored, reanimated and celebrated”

Sarah Bakewell, Sunday Times

“A masterly blend of biography and memoir”

Ian Pindar, Guardian

“A sly meditation on the biographer's art from a master of the genre”


“An accomplished biographer's tale, with a roaming narrative and many incidental pleasures on the way”

Derwent May, The Times

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