Annal: 2002 Whitbread Book Award for Biography

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2002.

Book:Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self

Claire Tomalin

For a decade, beginning in 1660, an ambitious young London civil servant kept an astonishingly candid account of his life during one of the most defining periods in British history. In Samuel Pepys, Claire Tomalin offers us a fully realized and richly nuanced portrait of this man, whose inadvertent masterpiece would establish him as the greatest diarist in the English language.

Against the backdrop of plague, civil war, and regicide, with John Milton composing diplomatic correspondence for Oliver Cromwell, Christopher Wren drawing up plans to rebuild London, and Isaac Newton advancing the empirical study of the world around us, Tomalin weaves a breathtaking account of a figure who has passed on to us much of what we know about seventeenth-century London. We witness Pepys’s early life and education, see him advising King Charles II before running to watch the great fire consume…[more]

Book:Anthony Blunt: His Lives

Anthony Blunt: His Lives

Miranda Carter

Once an untouchable member of England’s establishment—a world-famous art historian and a man knighted by the Queen of England—in a single stroke Anthony Blunt became an object of universal hatred when, in 1979, Margaret Thatcher exposed him as a Soviet spy.

In Anthony Blunt: His Lives, Miranda Carter shows how one man lived out opposing trends of his century—first as a rebel against his class, then as its epitome—and yet embodied a deeper paradox. In the 1920s, Blunt was a member of the Bloomsbury circle; in the 1930s he was a left-wing intellectual; in the 50s and 60s he became a camouflaged member of the Establishment. Until his treachery was made public, Blunt was a world-famous art historian, recognized for his ground-breaking work on Poussin, Italian art, and old master drawings; at the Courtauld Institute he trained a whole generation of academics and curators. And yet…[more]

Book:The Real Mrs Miniver

The Real Mrs Miniver

Ysenda Maxtone Graham

In 1937 the Court Page of the London Times began publishing a series of articles featuring a charming, upper-middle class English housewife named Mrs Miniver. The articles depicted an idyllically happy family with three children, a house in London, and a country cottage called Starlings.

Two years later, Mrs Miniver was published in book form. While some critics derided the book as sentimental, many readers embraced it as a symbol of an increasingly endangered English way of life, and it went on to become the #1 bestseller in America. The Hollywood film, released in 1942 with Greer Garson in the title role, won five Oscars, including Best Picture, and did so much to promote the American war effort in Europe that even Josef Goebbels recognized it as an exemplary piece of propaganda.

But who was the real Mrs Miniver? The articles were produced by Joyce Maxtone Graham, who wrote under the name Jan Struther…[more]

Book:Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA

Brenda Maddox

In March 1953, Maurice Wilkins of King’s College, London, announced the departure of his obstructive colleague Rosalind Franklin to rival Cavendish Laboratory scientist Francis Crick. But it was too late. Franklin’s unpublished data and crucial photograph of DNA had already been seen by her competitors at the Cambridge University lab. With the aid of these, plus their own knowledge, Watson and Crick discovered the structure of the molecule that genes are composed of—DNA, the secret of life. Five years later, at the age of thirty-seven, after more brilliant research under J. D. Bernal at Birkbeck College, Rosalind died of ovarian cancer. In 1962, Wilkins, Crick and Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize for their elucidation of DNA’s structure. Franklin’s part was forgotten until she was caricatured in Watson’s book The Double Helix.

In this full and balanced biography, Brenda Maddox has been given unique access to Franklin’s personal correspondence…[more]

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