Author Archives: sarahlef

Something of Themselves: Kipling, Kingsley, Conan Doyle, and the Anglo-Boer War

Available from Hurst (February 2020):

Shortlisted for the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography.

‘This biographical study of three writers in South Africa in 1900 is also a history of the first year of the Boer War, and a splendidly well-written page-turner. … Sarah LeFanu has already shown her ability to combine scholarship and storytelling, in the intelligently readable Rose Macaulay (2003) and in S Is for Samora (2012), a mixture of history, memoir, biography and political analysis of independent Mozambique. In Something of Themselves, she has achieved a classic to rank with Penelope Fitzgerald’s group biography The Knox Brothers (1977), in which Fitzgerald told the life stories of her father and uncles, intertwined with the cultural history of Edwardian and Georgian England, and Richard Holmes’s study of Romantic scientists The Age of Wonder (2008).’ – Jan Montefiore, Times Literary Supplement, 20 November 2020

‘This lively and thoroughly researched book gives an effective account of the political and military events of the Boer War, splendidly evoking the geographical and social landscape against which it was fought. … Sarah LeFanu brings the story to life through the deft use of biographical material and she has a cast of remarkable Victorians to work with … This most readable book has a good index, some well-chosen pictures and footnotes full of interesting extras and witty asides … Her discussion of their [Kipling, Kingsley, Conan Doyle] writing often focuses on style, colour and humour – all qualities on offer in her own enjoyable book.’ – Richard Maidment, Kipling Journal, Vol 94, no 384, December 2020

‘In Something of Themselves, [LeFanu] places Kipling alongside Arthur Conan Doyle and Mary Kingsley at the center of a fascinating study recounting their experiences in the Boer War, a conflict that all three witnessed at close hand.’ – Benjamin Shull, Wall Street Journal

‘[An] ambitious but compelling biographical work. … There is as much joy in it for readers as there are lessons for writers … magisterial.’ – Uddalak Mukherjee, Telegraph of India

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