Dreaming of Rose: A Biographer’s Journal

This is the journal I kept during the four years I was researching for and writing Rose Macaulay, with a final chapter about the opening, in June 2012, of the 50-year-embargoed box of Rose’s correspondence. To read an excerpt, click here … 

‘This is such a wise and charming book, giving us a glimpse over the shoulder of a biographer at work.  It captures what it’s really like to write a biography, which is nothing like the soothing sensation of reading one.   Here are the highs and lows, the episodes of frustration and exhilaration, the serendipity, the slog, the networking, “the biographer’s art of bullying” – and the constant shifts in emotional weather between biographer and biographee.  People imagine that biographers “identify” with their subjects in some simple sense, but Dreaming of Rose conveys how much more complicated the relationship is.  Sometimes the author is exasperated with Rose, sometimes she passionately empathises, and there are all the shades in between. And then there are all the great anecdotes: the trip to Trebizond, the tribulations of a writer earning her daily bread, and unforgettable images (my favourite is Rosamond Lehmann towing Rose around  the Lansdowne Club pool on a lilo).  The book becomes a tribute to biography itself, as a quest, as an art, and as the most generous and selfless of literary genres. I’d recommend it to any writer and any biography fan; in fact, I’d recommend it to just about anyone.’ Sarah Bakewell, author of How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer

‘This is a wonderful companion piece to Sarah LeFanu’s brilliant biography of Rose Macaulay and a fascinating book in its own right. … It’s a wise and generous book, heartily recommended to anyone who’d like to know what it’s like to write a biography or would just like to know more about Rose Macaulay.’ Lara Feigel, author of The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War

‘This is a terrific book: a wonderfully readable, and very honest, account of biographer Sarah LeFanu’s painstaking quest to piece together the truth about her elusive subject, the early twentieth century novelist Rose Macaulay. Presented in the form of a journal, and recounted with the lightest of touches, it manages, at the same time, to be hugely entertaining, and to offer profound insights into the life of a writer, and the frustrating but utterly engrossing art of biography.’ James Wilson, author of The Woman in the Picture and The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America            

‘I love this book. Every would-be biographer should read it, but it’s a wonderfully enjoyable read for anyone interested in excellent writing and civilised academic research.’ Patricia Ferguson, author of The Midwife’s Daughter

Buy Dreaming of Rose