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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.


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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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    January 2, 2012


    272 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    November 15, 2010

    Vintage Digital

    272 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Michael Holroyd

On Wheels
Basil Street Blues and Mosaic
A Strange Eventful History
Bernard Shaw
Augustus John
Lytton Strachey


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The House at the Edge of Night
For the Glory
41: A Portrait of My Father
The Truth About You
The Modern Family Survival Guide
Hanns and Rudolf
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The Monster of Florence