Annal: 2005 Whitbread Book Award for Biography

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2005.

Book:Matisse the Master

Matisse the Master: Volume 2. The Conquest of Colour: 1909-1954

Hilary Spurling

“If my story were ever to be written down truthfully from start to finish, it would amaze everyone,” wrote Henri Matisse. It is hard to believe today that Matisse, whose exhibitions draw huge crowds worldwide, was once almost universally reviled and ridiculed. His response was neither to protest nor to retreat; he simply pushed on from one innovation to the next, and left the world to draw its own conclusions. Unfortunately, these were generally false and often damaging. Throughout his life and afterward people fantasized about his models and circulated baseless fabrications about his private life.

Fifty years after his death, Matisse the Master (the second half of the biography that began with the acclaimed The Unknown Matisse) shows us the painter as he saw himself. With unprecedented and unrestricted access to his voluminous family correspondence, and other new material in private archives, Hilary Spurling documents a lifetime of desperation and…[more]

Book:Haw-Haw

Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce

Nigel Farndale

William and Margaret Joyce—Lord and Lady Haw-Haw—became one of the most mythologized, feared, and ridiculed partnerships of the Second World War. His “Germany Calling” broadcasts delivered in an upper-class drawl, and her more feminine pro-Nazi wireless talks, were part of the very fabric of the Home Front. Yet when they were captured in May 1945, only he was charged with high treason.

Authorized by William Joyces daughter and based on new interviews and previously unpublished archives, Haw-Haw is the meticulously researched and vividly written biography that traces William and Margarets relationship from the rise of the fascist movement in the East End of London through to war-torn Berlin; intrigue, hubris, alcoholism, infidelity following them along the way.

Book:Nature Cure

Nature Cure

Richard Mabey

In the last year of the old millennium, Richard Mabey, Britain’s foremost nature writer, fell into a severe depression. For two years,he did little more than lie in bed with his face to a wall. He could neither work nor play. His money ran out. Worst of all, the natural world—which since childhood had been a source of joy and inspiration for him—became meaningless. Then, cared for by friends, he gradually recovered. He fell in love. Out of necessity as much as choice he moved to East Anglia. And he started to write again.

This remarkable book is an account of that first year of a new life. It is the story of a rite of passage—from sickness into health, from retreat into curiosity. It is about the adventure of learning to fit again. Having left the cosseting woods of the Chiltern hills for the open flatlands of Norfolk, Richard Mabey finds exhilaration in discovering a whole new landscape. He…[more]

Book:Stuart

Stuart: A Life Backwards

Alexander Masters

Stuart, A Life Backwards, is the story of a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer and illustrator (a middle class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander) and a chaotic, knife-wielding beggar whom he gets to know during a campaign to release two charity workers from prison. Interwoven into this is Stuart’s confession: the story of his life, told backwards.

With humour, compassion (and exasperation) Masters slowly works back through post-office heists, prison riots and the exact day Stuart discovered violence, to unfold the reasons why he changed from a happy-go-lucky little boy into a polydrug-addicted-alcoholic Jekyll and Hyde personality, with a fondness for what he called “little strips of silver” (knives to you and me). Funny, despairing, brilliantly written and full of surprises: this is the most original and moving biography of recent years.

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