A Biographer’s Search for the Soul

Ann Wroe author


Publisher:Vintage Publishing

Published:31st Aug '23


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Lifescapes cover

The acclaimed biographer and obituarist for The Economist reflects on a career spent pursuing life and capturing it on the page



'Lifescapes is the universe in miniature'

'She's a genius, I believe'
HILARY MANTEL, author of Wolf Hall

'What is life?' asked the poet Shelley, and could not come up with an answer. Scientists, too, for all their understanding of how life manifests, thrives and evolves, have still not plumbed that fundamental question. Yet biographers and obituarists continue to corral lives in a few columns, or a few hundred pages, aware all the time how fleeting and elusive their subject is.

In this dazzlingly original blend of memoir, biography, observation and poetry, Ann Wroe reflects on the art and impossibility of capturing life on the page. Through her experiences and those of others, through people she has known, studied or merely glimpsed in windows, she movingly explores what makes a life and how that life lingers after.

Animated by Wroe's rare imagination, eye for the telling detail, and the wit, beauty and clarity of her writing, Lifescapes is a luminous, deeply personal answer to Shelley's question.

This thought-provoking and beautifully written book blends memoir with poetry and biography in search of what elements can evoke the character of a person * Financial Times, *Books of the Year* *
'I think of my work as catching souls,' writes Ann Wroe, the obituaries editor of The Economist, at the start of this book... How she goes about capturing them all is a fascinating business * Sunday Times, *Books of the Year* *
Seamlessly merges scenes from the author’s life with the overflow from her admirably humane Economist obituaries... This glimpse of Wroe at work, enriched with stories from her private notebooks, is a treat akin to, borrowing her words, 'wild plums fallen in the grass' * Times Literary Supplement, *Books of the Year* *
Beautifully written, the prose witty, twisting and sensuous, but it is sharp, too * The Times *
What a treat it is to read a writer at the top of her game... Astonishing... Lifescapes is the universe in miniature * Daily Telegraph *
A brave, unfashionable and out of the ordinary book… A delightLifescapes encourages us to take a deep breath, contemplate life more keenly and acknowledge the miraculous if – and when – we find it * Observer *
Evocative and beautifully written * Financial Times *
This is biography as empathy and even hyper-empathy… Wroe operates like a kind of tuning fork… She seems to feel the energy that thrums in people, nature and objects… Compelling * Times Literary Supplement *
Although the book is part memoir, part essay on the art of biography, it is really about the breath of life itself. Wroe’s writing is intense and visionary, at times almost ecstatic. Reader, dive in… Her voice, her writing, already add such consonance, such alert and graceful rapture, to the music of the world * Spectator *
She's a genius, I believe, because she lights up every subject she touches -- Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall

ISBN: 9781787334458

Dimensions: 222mm x 142mm x 24mm

Weight: 329g

224 pages