Maggie Fergusson - George Mackay Brown - Hodder & Stoughton

Time remaining

  • -- days
  • -- hours
  • -- minutes
  • -- seconds
Other Formats
  • E-Book £P.O.R.
    More information
    • ISBN:9781848547872
    • Publication date:21 Jun 2012

George Mackay Brown

By Maggie Fergusson

  • Paperback
  • £9.99

One of the most highly acclaimed biographies of 2006 -- now published in paperback

George Mackay Brown was one of Scotland's greatest twentieth-century writers, but in person a bundle of paradoxes. He had a wide international reputation, but hardly left his native Orkney. A prolific poet, admired by such fellow poets as Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Charles Causley, and hailed by the composer Peter Maxwell Davies as 'the most positive and benign influence ever on my own efforts at creation', he was also an accomplished novelist (shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize for Beside the Ocean of Time) and a master of the short story. When he died in 1996, he left behind an autobiography as deft as it is ultimately uninformative.

'The lives of artists are as boring and also as uniquely fascinating as any or every other life,' he claimed. Never a recluse, he appeared open to his friends, but probably revealed more of himself in his voluminous correspondence with strangers. He never married - indeed he once wrote, 'I have never been in love in my life.' But some of his most poignant letters and poems were written to Stella Cartwright, 'the Muse of Rose Street', the gifted but tragic figure to whom he was once engaged and with whom he kept in touch until the end of her short life.

Maggie Fergusson interviewed George Mackay Brown several times and is the only biographer to whom he, a reluctant subject, gave his blessing. Through his letters and through conversations with his wide acquaintance, she discovers that this particular artist's life was not only fascinating but vivid, courageous and surprising.

Biographical Notes

Maggie Fergusson has written for newspapers and magazines including The Times, the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, Harpers & Queen and the Independent magazine, and is Secretary of the Royal Society of Literature. She is married with two daughters and lives in London. This is her first book.

  • Other details

  • ISBN: 9780719566059
  • Publication date: 19 Apr 2007
  • Page count: 384
  • Imprint: John Murray
'Other biographies to relish include Maggie Fergusson's life of the poet George Mackay Brown...' — Boyd Tonkin, Independent
In Maggie Fergusson, Mackay Brown has had the good fortune to find the kind of biographer with whom every writer should be blessed. She writes lucidly, with restraint and without sentimentality. Her affection and sympathy for her subject shine through but she never shirks from showing his darker side. He was a deeply troubled man cursed with melancholia whose legacy was prose and poetry of luminous virtuosity. If there is a better biography of a 20th century Scottish writer I look forward to reading it — Sunday Herald
'Outstanding... This is an extraordinarily good book; it is sensitive, witty and has an excellent sense of the vitality of the apparently unimportant details that make up lives and characters.' — Lucy Lethbridge, New Statesman
'An affectionate but clear-sighted biography. Read it alongside his Collected Poems and step into the 'small green world' of [the Orkneys]' — The Times
'Unmissable' — Glasgow Herald
'[Fergusson's] biography is infused with love and understanding of the man and his work... she writes with a delicate precision' — Sunday Times, Jeremy Lewis
'Through his letter and conversations with many friends, Maggie Ferguson discovers that George's life was vivid, courageous and surprising' — Scottish Field
'He deserves a good biography but has got a magnificent one; sympathetic, affectionate, but not glossing over his weaknesses' — Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph
'This subtle, sensitive, beautifully-written biography is a superb example of an author wholly in tune with her subject' — Sunday Telegraph
'His world, in all its wondrous ordinariness, has been brought beautifully to life by Maggie Fergusson's painstakingly faithful labour of love . . . Exquisite and constantly illuminating ' - Sean O'Hagan — Observer
George Mackay Brown was the most elegiac and profoundly rooted of twentieth-century Scottish writers. Maggie Fergusson's biography is a deftly written and convincingly craggy portrait of this Orcadian genius — William Dalrymple
'Maggie Fergusson has captured the essence of the man with insight and elegance.' — Sunday Daily Express (Tom Fullerton)
'An excellent and surprising biography' — Kathleen Jamie, Guardian
This is an outstanding biography: deeply researched, sympathetic and full of insight into George Mackay Brown's magical ability to make poetry out of the simple ingredients of landscape, history and faith, it brings this extraordinary man to life on every page — Claire Tomalin
'She has drawn a portrait of this man which is both the perfect companion for a rereading of his works and also a fascinating story in its own right...This is an altogether remarkable book. I know it will be unforgettable, and that it will draw me back to many rereadings...It is that rare thing, a biography which is itself a work of literature, the story not merely of a lonely, weird man in an isolated part of the United Kingdom, but of an inner journey which the reader follows enraptured, every bit as exciting and strange as the life-journeys of men of action.' — Spectator

Clear, detailed, vigilant, droll and beautifully written, this biography achieves what only the best accounts of a life can: the scent and texture of the departed subject's spirit, and, in this case, the spirit of a very particular place, which Maggie Fergusson conveys with the grace of the born
writer

— Candia McWilliam
This is a truly magnificent achievement. One sign of an outstanding biography is when those who knew - or thought they knew - the subject find surprises and fresh illumination on nearly every page. This beautifully written book evokes both Orkney and the spirit of its master story-teller with a delicate yet unostentatious skill which is the literary equivalent of perfect pitch ... Maggie Fergusson may not have said the last word, but she has stylishly delivered the best and most brilliantly satisfying word so far' — Herald
'Unmissable' — Glasgow Herald
'From this unpromising hank of material, Maggie Fergusson has fashioned an affectionate and enlightening life of the poet George Mackay Brown.' — Literary Review (Andro Linklater )
'A significant monument to an elegiac writer of genuine literary muscle' - Iain Finlayson — The Times
'An outstanding work of research which no-one interested in George Mackay Brown can afford to be without . . . This is a distinguished example of the art of the biography, beautifully produced in every respect . . . at once sympathetic and professional' — Orcadian
'And, behold, a miracle! In one of his many letters (and this book makes me long for a big collected edition of his letters) Brown wrote "There must be a secret wisdom inside us all that directs our lives, often against our wills and desires". Maggie Fergusson seems to have tapped into this secret wisdom. She has drawn a portrait of this man which is both the perfect companion for a rereading of his works and also a fascinating story in its own right...She herself writes with a poet's accuracy. The setting of the Orcadian scene in the opening pages is masterly, but she also has the poet's knowledge of when to produce the telling detail....As well as being a preternaturally acute exponent of what makes Brown's poetry work, Maggie Fergusson is wonderfully wise and deep in her explorations of his emotional and religious life.. 'This is an altogether remarkable book. I know it will be unforgettable, and that it will draw me back to many rereadings. It is that rare thing, a biography whi — Statesman
'After reading this book every reader will feel at home in the harsh, rewarding world of the Orkneys' — Independent
'Remarkable man. Remarkable art. Fine book that illuminates them both' — Scotsman
'Strangely, this is what I would call an inspiriting story...and it is very well told' — Spectator
'Fergusson's biography of Scottish poet George Mackay Brown ignores the modern trend of looking down gleefully from a dunghill height at the subject.' — Irish Times
'A stimulating and elegantly written biography, an excellent companion to Mackay Brown's "Collected Poems", which were co-edited by... Archie Bevan, and appeared last year from the same publisher, John Murray.' — The Economist
'Maggie Fergusson treats Brown's sexuality with delicacy and respect' — Times Literary Supplement
'Loving study' — Jeremy Lewis, The Sunday Times
'One of the best lives of a poet I have ever read is Maggie Fergusson's George Mackay Brown. She creeps up, not only on her subject, but also on her reader, wooing and cunning. Out of his inner life in a remote place, Fergusson has made a great book about a great man. She is brilliant at understanding the things which did not happen, as well as the things which did, in her subject's life (sex, for example). I seldom feel envy when reading modern books, but I wish I wrote as well as she has done' — An Wilson, The Observer
'A real treat: a sensitive record of a neglected modern poet that made a convincing argument for his genius' — Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph
Hodder & Stoughton

Henry VIII and the men who made him

Tracy Borman
Authors:
Tracy Borman
Hodder & Stoughton

Queen Victoria

Lucy Worsley
Authors:
Lucy Worsley

'Such a brilliant idea! Drilling down into Victoria's diaries Worsley gives us Victoria in all her infinite variety - queen and mother, matriarch and minx...I loved it.' Daisy Goodwin, author, and creator of ITV's VictoriaWho was Queen Victoria? A little old lady, potato-like in appearance, dressed in everlasting black? Or a passionate young princess, a romantic heroine with a love of dancing? There is also a third Victoria - a woman who was also a remarkably successful queen, one who invented a new role for the monarchy. She found a way of being a respected sovereign in an age when people were deeply uncomfortable with having a woman on the throne. As well as a queen, Victoria was a daughter, a wife, a mother and a widow, and at each of these steps along life's journey she was expected to conform to what society demanded of a woman. On the face of it, she was deeply conservative. But if you look at her actions rather than her words, she was in fact tearing up the rule book for how to be female. By looking at the detail of twenty-four days of her life, through diaries, letters and more, we can see Victoria up close and personal. Examining her face-to-face, as she lived hour to hour, allows us to see, and to celebrate, the contradictions at the heart of British history's most recognisable woman.

Coronet

The Colditz Conundrum

Tom Shore
Authors:
Tom Shore

Colditz Castle is famous as the German prisoner of war camp, subject of a popular TV series in 1980s. It was supposed to impossible to escape from this castle set high on a rocky escarpment, and yet a series of daring, even foolhardy escape plans involving tunnels cut into solid rock and a glider led to several notable successes. In this new complete history of Colditz as a high security prisoner of war camp, housing in the end only British and American prisoners, including Douglas Bader and Airey Neave, author and researcher Tom Shore advances the theory that multiple coincidences point to there having been a hidden hand at work.

Two Roads

Natives

Akala
Authors:
Akala

'A potent combination of autobiography and political history which holds up a mirror to contemporary Britain' Independent'A history lesson of the kind you should get in school, but don't' Stylist'Powerful ... The kind of disruptive, aggressive intellect that a new generation is closely watching' Afua Hirsch, Guardian 'Part biography, part polemic, this powerful, wide-ranging study picks apart the British myth of meritocracy' David Olusoga, Guardian'Inspiring' Madani Younis, ObserverA searing modern polemic and Sunday Times bestseller from the BAFTA- and MOBO-award-winning musician and political commentator, Akala.From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers - race and class have shaped Akala's life and outlook. In this unique book he takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today.Covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, Natives will speak directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.'A book bristling with intelligence and insight' Irish Times

John Murray

Katherine Howard

Josephine Wilkinson
Authors:
Josephine Wilkinson
Coronet

The Secret Lore of London

Hodder Paperbacks

The Churchill Factor

Boris Johnson
Authors:
Boris Johnson

Brian Sibley

Brian Sibley is a writer and broadcaster. He has presented various television and radio programmes, including the BBC's FIRST LIGHT series, the World Service's MERIDIEN, and the radio dramatisation of C. S. Lewis' Narnia stories. His books include a biography of Rev W Awdry.

Carol Mcgiffin

Carol McGiffin was born in London in 1960, and grew up in Kent with her two sisters Kim and Tracy and her brother Mark. A radio and television broadcaster, Carol is probably best known as the most outspoken member of the hit ITV talk show, Loose Women. Carol has been on the show for nearly a decade and recently joined the other girls to collect a National Television Award - beating stiff competition from Top Gear and The Apprentice. Carol began her broadcasting career as a co-host with Chris Evans on GLR, and went on to marry him in 1991, though they separated two years later. She also worked alongside Paul Ross on the award-winning breakfast show on Talk Radio, before working at LBC and Loose Women. She lives with her fiancé Mark in London.

Carolyn Fry

Carolyn Fry is the former editor of Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographic Society and has travelled the world in search of stories. She has written five books on botanical themes, including the acclaimed Plant Hunters.

Christina Noble

Christina Noble was born in the slums of Dublin city. At the age of ten her mother died, and her alcoholic father could no longer care for her or her siblings. In the years that followed she suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse in orphanages and on the streets, and after her marriage she was the victim of domestic violence. One night she had a dream about the street children of Vietnam and decided to make it reality. In 1989 she set up the Christina Noble Children's Foundation in Ho Chi Minh city and in 1997 she expanded it to Mongolia. To this day she continues to devote her life to improving the lives of the street children.

Christopher Ward

Christopher Ward is the grandson of Jock Hume, at 21 the youngest member of the Titanic`s orchestra. Christopher joined the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle-upon-Tyne aged 17, and moved to Merseyside to become the Daily Mirror`s Liverpool correspondent at the height of Beatlemania. In his early twenties, he moved to London, writing a column in the Mirror for more than ten years. At 38 he became Fleet Street`s then youngest editor when he was appointed editor of the Daily Express. He left, aged 42, to co-found Redwood, Europe`s first customer magazine agency, of which he is Chairman today. He lives in the Scottish Borders, seventy miles from Jock Hume`s birth place in Dumfries.

Christy Moore

Christy Moore was born in 1945 and made his first album with Dominic Behan. He sang with Planxty and after they disbanded in l981 with Moving Hearts. He began his solo work in l982 and has made over 30 albums in all, including The Christy Moore Collection in l992. He has toured regularly in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the States. He is married with three children.

Colm O'gorman

Colm O'Gorman founded the charity One in Four to support women and men who have experienced sexual violence. Prior to that he worked as a therapist in private practice in London. He is a former Senator on the Irish Parliament and is now Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland. In 1998 he sued the Roman Catholic Church over its systematic cover-ups of child abuse scandals involving its priests, and won. He lives in County Wexford with his family.

Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan

Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan was born in New York City in 1877 and was a member of the prominent American Vanderbilt family. She became the Duchess of Marlborough on her marriage to the ninth Duke of Marlborough in 1895, eventually separating in 1906. She remarried in 1921 and spent the remainder of her life involved in philanthropic projects, until her death in Long Island, New York in 1964.

Cornelius Ryan

Cornelius Ryan was born in 1920 in Dublin. He covered World War II from the frontline, attached to General Patton's army until the end of the war in 1945. He emigrated to the USA in 1947 and became one of the most important and respected war journalists of his generation, writing critically acclaimed articles and books until his death in 1976.

Deborah Devonshire

The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was brought up in Oxfordshire. In 1950 her husband Andrew, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, inherited estates in Yorkshire and Ireland, as well as Chatsworth, the family seat in Derbyshire, and Deborah became chatelaine and housekeeper of one of England's greatest and best-loved houses. Following her husband's death in 2004, she moved to a village on the Chatsworth estate. She died in 2014.

Dermot O'Leary

Dermot O'Leary has been the much-loved host of ITV's The X Factor for seven series, and is now working on his eighth. He also presents his own Sony award-winning BBC Radio 2 show, which draws in close to 2 million listeners each week. From early beginnings as a Runner for BBC Essex, then a Researcher on the TV show Light Lunch, Dermot became one of the founding presenters on Channel Four's T4, before moving on to presenting and producing Big Brother's Little Brother. Dermot has hosted a number of other programmes including, most recently, Channel Four's ground-breaking documentary Live From Space which broadcast from the International Space Station.

Donald Sturrock

Donald Sturrock grew up in England and South America and, after leaving Oxford University, joined BBC where he worked as writer, producer and director. He has made more than 30 documentaries, and is the author of critically acclaimed biography of Roald Dahl, Storyteller.

Fiona Stanford

Fiona Stanford has been an Army wife for fifteen years, and has moved eleven times since her wedding day.She and her husband Richard have two children. She works as a nurse and her first book Don't Say Goodbye: Our Heoes and the Families They leave Behind was published by in February 2011.