Marcus Berkmann has reviewed Philip Eade’s biography of Waugh in today’s Daily Mail. Berkmann is a freelance journalist and has also written widely for TV and radio as well as producing several books on subjects ranging from sport to Star Trek. At the beginning of the review, Berkmann sets out what he sees as Eade’s challenge in writing about Waugh:
The old curmudgeon not only wrote like a dream, he wrote quickly. Which meant he had room for an awful lot of other life to live, and my God did he live it. He then wrote from his experience, which gives a biographer lots to do in hunting out sources. And like a lot of writers he was compulsive, writing extensive diaries and letters to everybody, pretty much all the time. So, as Philip Eade has discovered, the problem with writing a life of Evelyn Waugh is not what to put in. It’s what to leave out.
Berkmann thinks Eade manages this problem relatively well, noting that his early pages “rattle along.” He finds that:
Eade isn’t a standard literary biographer; he is, by instinct and preference, an entertainer. His previous two biographies were of Young Prince Philip (2011), which roared ahead like a thriller, and of Sylvia Brooke, wife of the last ‘white rajah’ of Sarawak.
He is an assiduous researcher with a considerable narrative gift. He also, crucially, likes his subject. Waugh never much cared what anyone thought of him, but Eade does, and time and again he finds justification for what previous biographers have considered questionable behaviour.
Berkmann points out one weak point where Eade “seems to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of people Evelyn is meeting” but concludes that “in the main this is an exemplary piece of work.”