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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wainwright: The Biography by Hunter Davies

I'd heard of Book 41's subject Alfred Wainwright of course, but have never read a word he's written or seen him on TV - to the best of my recollection. I suppose you wouldn't normally read a biography of someone you had such a tenuous knowledge of, but such is the nature of my library challenge that I am often plunged into the covers of books I would not normally open.

That said, I was glad I read Wainwright, who sounds like an enigmatic character. A man, who appeared gruff and taciturn on the surface, but underneath was a romantic. For a man who spent hours alone on the hills he had an amazing number of women friends, yet barely spoke to his wife, who he treated like a housekeeper!

Wainwright is the biographer's dream because he wasn't much of a speaker, yet was a prolific author of letters as well as over 50 books which he didn't start writing until well in his forties! He practically wrote everything down which happened to him. There must have been an enormous amount of material to read in order to write this book, which maintains interest throughout and is rarely boring.

I am an obsessive so I could identify with Wainwright who embarked on such a ludicrous challenge that few would have expected him to complete it - only an complete obsessive could do so! Writing his guide books entirely by hand was bizarre even in the 1950s, something that probably hadn't been done since the Middle Ages.

Yet to the people around him he paid little regard. His wives and son had to fit in around Wainright's life and he had very few friends who he spoke to. Nobody was allowed to walk with him, except on rare occasions, but if they did they weren't allowed to speak - even his second wife!

Although Wainwright is not a massive figure of the Twentieth Century, even in the UK, he's still an enjoyable character to read about and Hunter Davies is a very good author. I award Wainwright 8 out of 10.

Next up is book 42, which is another work from the biography section.

I think this book is not a true biography, more a kind of book about things Jon Rowson has come across during his time as a Guardian journalist. Let's find out.

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