Annal: 1995 Whitbread Book Award for Biography

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 1995.



Roy Jenkins

William Gladstone was, with Tennyson, Newman, Dickens, Carlyle, and Darwin, one of the stars of nineteenth-century British life. He spent sixty-three of his eighty-nine years in the House of Commons and was prime minister four times, a unique accomplishment. From his critical role in the formation of the Liberal Party to his preoccupation with the cause of Irish Home Rule, he was a commanding politician and statesman nonpareil. But Gladstone the man was much more: a classical scholar, a wide-ranging author, a vociferous participant in all the great theological debates of the day, a voracious reader, and an avid walker who chopped down trees for recreation. He was also a man obsessed with the idea of his own sinfulness, prone to self-flagellation and persistent in the practice of accosting prostitutes on the street and attempting to persuade them of the errors of their ways.

This full and deep portrait of a complicated man offers a sweeping picture of a tumultuous century in British history, and is also a brilliant example of the biographer’s art.

Book:Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth

Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth

Gitta Sereny

Albert Speer was not only Hitler’s architect and armaments minister, but the Fuhrer’s closest friend—his “unhappy love.” Speer was one of the few defendants at the Nuremberg Trials to take responsibility for Nazi war crimes, even as he denied knowledge of the Holocaust. Now this enigma of a man is unveiled in a monumental biography by a writer who came to know Speer intimately in his final years. Out of hundreds of hours of interviews, Sereny unravels the threads of Speer’s personality: the genius that made him indispensable to the German war machine, the conscience that drove him to repent, and the emotional wounds that made him susceptible to Hitler’s lethal magnetism. Read as an inside account of the Third Reich, or as a revelatory unsparing yet compassionate study of the human capacity for evil, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth is a triumph.

Book:Terence Rattigan

Terence Rattigan: A Biography

Geoffrey Wansell

Terence Rattigan was one of the most popular English playwrights of the twentieth century. From the late 1930s until the late 1950s Rattigan ruled London’s West End and was the author of four of the greatest plays of the period: The Deep Blue Sea, Separate Tables, The Browning Version and The Winslow Boy. By all outward accounts, his life was one of luxury and refinement. The vision the public saw was of the playboy whose social whirl never ended. This image, though, could not be further from the truth. In private, Rattigan was a man tormented by fears and determined to conceal his pain and suffering, his loneliness and his homosexuality behind a polished facade of relaxation and wit.

Until now, no biographer has been able to fully unravel the complexities of Rattigan’s genius. Geoffrey Wansell is the first writer to have been given full access to thousands of private papers and to have talked at length to many of Rattigan’s friends and lovers, some of whom have previously kept silent.

Book:Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain: A Life

Paul Berry, Mark Bostridge

Controversial writer, pacifist, and feminist, Vera Brittain (1893-1970) is best known as the author of Testament of Youth, the eloquent memoir of her World War I experiences that gave voice to a generation forever shattered and haunted by the Great War.

This authoritative biography provides a full and candid account of Brittain’s life that alters in important respects the self-portrait she presented in Testament of Youth and her later autobiographical work, Testament of Experience. Drawing on a treasure trove of private family papers and memorabilia, Paul Berry and Mark Bostridge chronicle her conservative and provincial upbringing, university education, and the devastating losses of her fiancé, younger brother, and two friends in the first World War. They examine her struggles to become a successful writer, her close relationship with writer Winifred Holtby, her unconventional marriage to political scientist George Catlin, and her courageous stance against Britain’s saturation bombing of Germany in World War II.

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