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Wry, perceptive and very funny, an elegy to the glamour of the car from the celebrated biographer

Michael Holroyd confronts an army of automobiles in this book. Weaving together memoir and historical anecdote, he traces his relationship with cars through a lifetime of biography.
Learning to drive was no easy matter for Michael: the lessons required military precision when practising how to get in and out of his car correctly. His biographical subjects also had their difficulties: Bernard Shaw drove with reckless gusto when overtaking his eightieth year; Vita Sackville-West’s car became a chamber for sudden romantic assignations and getaways; while Augustus John and his family careered through vulnerable villages as the poor vehicle, piled high with bohemian friends, stuttered and jerked along in first gear.
Wry, thoughtful and very funny, On Wheels is an elegy to the glamour of the car. Subtle and perceptive, Michael Holroyd finds surprising ways to understand the past and challenge our view of the future.


A charming book...elegantly written

Alexei Sayle, Telegraph

Holroyd’s elegant little essays are a pleasure to read...these are witty, quotable jeux d’esprit

Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

A great Christmas present for those hurtling towards their driving test… A subtle delight

The Lady

Jolly, illustrated salute to the cars in his own life and the lives he has biographised in a long literary career. Lovely. Toot! Toot!

Iain Finlayson, The Times

A delightful memoir-cum-social history which is wry, self-deprecating and anything but stuffy… his elegant musings provide an ideal festive pick-me-up, compact enough to fit in a stocking, and packing enough pep to burn any rival off the road

Andrew Lycett, Sunday Telegraph

Michael Holroyd, esteemed and genial doyen of literary biographers, has wheels. Decades of dedication to literature and the life of the mind have at least raised his consciousness to the level at which he discerns the shaping presence of motorism in his own life and those of his biographical subjects… I can only rejoice

Alan Judd, Literary Review

A companionable book, made to be raced through in one sitting

Gemma Kapalla-Ramsamy, Observer

This is a great little addition to his existing volumes of memoir

Katie Law, Evening Standard

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Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    November 15, 2012

    Chatto & Windus

    128 pages

    RRP $22.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    November 1, 2012

    Vintage Digital

    128 pages

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