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A House in St John's Wood
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An intimate portrait of Stephen Spender's extraordinary life written by his son, Matthew Spender, with new insights drawn from personal recollections and unpublished archives. Stephen Spender's life, with all its secrets, successes and contradictions, is a vivid prism through which to view the twentieth century. He made friends with W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood while at Oxford, and together the three had wild adventures in Europe, where they became early critics of Hitler and the rise of fascism. Like his friends, Stephen was drawn to other men, yet he eventually married Natasha Litvin, an ambitious young concert pianist, and together they started a family.Matthew Spender grew up in postwar England as the child of two celebrated artists deeply immersed in the political and cultural life of their times. Taught how to use adjectives by Auden and raised among an influential elite, Matthew led what might have been a charmed existence, were it not for the tensions within his own household. His father, always susceptible to the allure of young men, was unable either to stop himself for the sake of his family, or to reveal his secret life; and his mother's suffering led her on a strange introspective quest of her own.`A House in St. John's Wood' is at once a remarkably clear-eyed attempt to make sense of the many conflicting messages of his unconventional youth and a deeply felt portrait of his magnetic father and guarded mother. Drawing on a wide range of unpublished letters and diaries, secret documents and youthful memories, Matthew Spender tells the story of a singular family caught in the midst of its own cold war.
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About the Author

Born in 1945, Matthew Spender is a sculptor and the author of `Within Tuscany: Reflections on a Time and a Place' and `From a High Place: A Life of Arshile Gorky'. He lives with his wife, artist Maro Gorky, on a farm near Siena.

Reviews

`It's hard to overstate how bravely honest Matthew Spender's book is ... brilliantly paced ... the book also matters in its own right for its insight into how we are all shaped by the strangeness of the families we find ourselves inhabiting ... a remarkable book' Observer `This thoughtful and often astonishingly beautiful memoir ... is exploratory, analytical, often critical, occasionally disloyal but ultimately a deeply moving work of filial pride, an attempt to try to work out not only the truth about his extraordinary parents but also himself' Evening Standard `Painfully honest ... With a son's harsh condescension he spells out Stephen's failings and blind spots, while not forgetting his generosity of spirit ... He writes with such insight and intelligence that it feels wholly authentic. And by widening his field of vision beyond the family home to explore issues of culture, gender and politics then and now, he makes it our business, too' Blake Morrison, Guardian `Eye-popping' Daily Mail `An outstanding piece of writing, full of wonderfully sharp judgements... a memoir written in such a thoughtful, congenial, matter-of-fact style that it is only after putting it down that one begins to take in the full oddity of the Spenders' Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday `The steady gaze of the writing and its compassionate heart, turn what might have been grave robbery into a valuable and moving act of recovery' Andrew Motion, Guardian, Books of the Year `A disarmingly eccentric book ... which combines a memoir of his parents ... with ruminations on the gilded world in which they disported' Literary Review `Scrupulously even-handed ... Matthew Spender is a far more accomplished and engaging prose writer than his father, with a distinct personal voice' TLS `The heart of this book is filial and emotional. And very moving' Financial Times `Told with extraordinary force and honest and is intensely interesting' The Oldie

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