Annal: 2004 Whitbread Book Award for Biography

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2004.

Book:My Heart Is My Own

My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots

John Guy

She was crowned Queen of Scotland at nine months of age, and Queen of France at sixteen years; at eighteen she ascended the throne that was her birthright and began ruling one of the most fractious courts in Europe, riven by religious conflict and personal lust for power. She rode out at the head of an army in both victory and defeat; saw her second husband assassinated, and married his murderer. At twenty-five she entered captivity at the hands of her rival queen, from which only death would release her.

The life of Mary Stuart is one of unparalleled drama and conflict. From the labyrinthine plots laid by the Scottish lords to wrest power for themselves, to the efforts made by Elizabeth’s ministers to invalidate Mary’s legitimate claim to the English throne, John Guy returns to the archives to explode the myths and correct the inaccuracies that surround this most fascinating monarch. He also explains a central mystery: why Mary would have consented to marry – only three months after the death of her…[more]


Jabez: The Rise and Fall of a Victorian Rogue

David McKie

Book:Stephen Spender

Stephen Spender: A Literary Life

John Sutherland

One of the leading poets and cultural icons of the 20th century, Stephen Spender was a prominent writer, literary critic, and social commentator—and close friend of some of the best-know creative talents of his day. Now, in this penetrating biography, John Sutherland paints a vivid portrait of Spender and of the glittering literary world of which he was a part, drawing on exclusive access to Spender’s private papers.

This briskly paced, compelling narrative illuminates the vast range of Spender’s literary, political, and artistic interests. We follow Spender from childhood to his days at Oxford (where he first became friends with W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and Isaiah Berlin); to his meteoric rise as poet in the 1930s, while still in his twenties; to his later years as cultural statesman, at home in both Britain and America. We witness many of the century’s defining moments through Spender’s eyes: the Spanish…[more]

Book:V.S. Pritchett

V.S. Pritchett: A Working Life

Jeremy Treglown

Long considered the English Chekhov, V. S. Pritchett was described by Eudora Welty as “one of the great pleasure-givers in our language.” Here is a true literary event: the first major biography of this extraordinary writer, who for most of a century ennobled the ordinary, and the affecting story of the two tumultuous marriages that fueled his art.

He would become universally known as V.S.P., but he began life as Victor—named for Queen Victoria—in 1900. His imagination was both an inheritance from and an inoculation against his unpredictable father: a charming spendthrift who went bankrupt in a variety of businesses. For Victor, writing ultimately became a way to turn the pain of his past into security.

As a reporter in the 1920s, Pritchett was posted to some of the trouble spots of Europe, including pre-Civil War Spain, but he preferred travel to politics, honing the acute perception of common people that he used to great effect in his fiction. His…[more]

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