Tag Archives: biography

Lasseter in Quest of Gold

A harrowing account of the expedition undertaken by Harold Bell Lesseter in 1930 in search of an elusive gold reef into the heart of Australia in its aboriginal territory.

Lesseter had apparently come across this gold reef as a young boy but forgotten about it for 30 years when he went about and into America in search of other jobs. But come 1930 he mounts an expedition in which several shareholders take interest, a company is formed, Board of Directors named and funds released for them to go into the desert in the hot summer months with Lesseter having only a vague idea of where the gold reef is located.

Skirmishes, fights between the members of expedition, harrowing tales of suffering from lack of water, trucks being bogged down in the marshy land, trucks breaking down, planes crashing and becoming derelict – all the sufferings and adventures become part of the history and the name Lesseter became famous in Australian legend and in the end the mystery regarding the gold reef remained what it was – a mystery.

Whether there was a gold reef, whether all this was a cock and bull story by Lesseter, whether he did find the gold and escaped or died in the outback – Interesting biography this, different from the usual ones. Goodreads. 3/5

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Marilyn Monroe – The Biography

Probably the most detailed, exhaustive and explosive biography one can ever get of the enigmatic, beautiful and mysterious Marilyn Monroe.

Donald Spoto has done full justice to Marilyn Monroe by bringing to light all aspects of Marilyn’s life from her birth to her sad and unnecessary death. She had a tragic life for sure, being born an illegitimate child, with her mother leaving her to foster home at the age of 6 months itself. Father unknown and a history of mental illness from the supposed father side, succession of foster homes, being treated like a burden by the families, mother becoming a mental patient and incarcerated for the better part of her life in an institution.

From that emerged a star, hesitant at first, but with clutching to one friend after another, one affair after another not finding happiness anywhere. Succession of marriages with Joe DiMaggio the baseball star and Arthur Miller, the playwright, being the famous ones. Both marriages ended in fiasco with DiMaggio physically abusing her and Miller a mediocre playwright depending upon her for succor. In the end Joe DiMaggio was the one who truly loved her and understood her fully.

Psychological problems, health problems, one after another doctors, psychiatrists, all clinging like leech to her and using her for their personal gains, all selfish, ambitious at her expense. And then her nervousness in front of the camera, studio bosses berating her, blaming her for production losses – all that a girl alone in the world has to endure, she did it with equanimity without blaming anyone.

A really tragic story of a life snuffed out prematurely, possibly murdered because of jealousy and hatred. No connection to the Kennedys which according to Spoto was pure humbug. Brilliant biography of a troubled star by Donald Spoto. Goodreads 5/5

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Edward & Alexandra

A royal biography of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra by Richard Hough.

Bertie as Richard refers to the king in the book was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Alix as Alexandra is referred is from the royal lineage of Denmark. They spend more than half of their life waiting to be the king and queen until the demise of Queen Victoria. They are into their 60s, when he ascends the throne.

As long as she was alive Queen Victoria did not deem it fit to give any important jobs of the state to Bertie but after her death he was more than anxious to undo the damage and got into hectic parleys with the rulers and kings of France, Germany and Russia which were not on good terms with Britain up unto that time.

Bertie was a devoted husband but he had his own mistresses by the side all through his life and Alix suffered for that. They had their own rich life with liveried servants, parties, races, luxury yatchs, and scandals galore though none from Alix side. Their grandson, another Bertie was the husband of the present Queen Elizabeth of England.

Too many names & characters in the book got me confused a bit at the beginning of the book. The monarchy is all related between countries in Europe. Kaiser of Germany of World War I fame was his nephew and Alix’s sister Minnie was married off to the Russian monarchy the Tsar, who went through much tragedy in 1917.

Goodreads 3/5

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W.G. Grace

Unarguably one of the best biographies on one of the greatest all rounders of cricket ever.

Simon Rae has done full justice to the man, a colossal of his times, the man singularly responsible for making cricket popular in its initial stages of development of the game. He was in one part responsible for the bitter rivalry between England and Australia and the Ashes urn, when he taunted Fred Spofforth during the 1882 test series when England required 85 to win and could not make it because of the some defiant bowling by Spofforth.

This book gives a detailed account of practically all of W.G. Grace’s first class matches including some club matches as well, his keen interest on developing Gloucestershire as a cricket team and later Crystal Palace, which did not fructify. Grace was involved in some of the rule changes in the initial era of cricket such as number of balls per over, declaration etc.

Grace started playing cricket even in his pre teens and went on to play it well unto his 66th year just a year before his death. Apart from cricket he was vigorously involved in fishing, shooting, golf, and in his later years lawn bowling and curling. The man had a massive appetite for sports and indefatigable strength to pursue it day after day.

The book also mentions some delectable innings by Ranjitsinghji the famous Indian prince who was unarguably India’s best batsman overseas and after whom the primary cricket tournament in India is named viz. Ranji Trophy. Ranji was a brilliant batsman in his own right until he lost sight in one eye due to a shooting incident and his later responsibilities as a prince of Jamnagar.

This book took a long time to read as Simon Rae has meticulously compiled each aspect of Grace’s life from his early years to his first class career, test career, sibling rivalry, personal life, personal tragedies etc. Grace was a phenomenal all rounder in cricket, more than even Gary Sobers, i would assume. He could grind the attack to pieces, defend it vigorously when the situation demanded and bowl over after overs sometimes the whole day. He was also a brilliant fielder at point position, his overall persona dominating the cricket field like nothing else.

Had W.G. Grace not been around in that era, cricket would have assumed some other milder form, i presume. Goodreads 5/5

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The Accidental Prime Minister

The Accidental Prime Minister is a kind of unofficial biography of the greatest Prime Minister that India could have had but for his inherent shyness and introvertedness and the machinations of the Congress party loyalists close to the Family to ensure that no credit goes to the man or to anybody who is not from the Family. It is a strong and damning indictment of the Family, the psychopancy  of the Congress party leaders, the egotism of some of its stalwarts who could not see eye to eye with the PM, the egotripism of some senior bureacrats.  This man with impeccable credentials, distinguished educational background and rich experience could have been the greatest Prime Minister that India ever had because he had the vision for India but he was deliberately downplayed and not allowed freedom to do things his way. The book is absolutely brutal in its treatment of the political establishment especially that of the Ruling party and the Left leaders during the India US nuclear deal. Sanjaya Baru has spoken his heart of the person with whom he was closely associated during his tenure. After reading this book, one get’s pure admiration for the man who has led India for the last 10 years. Highly recommended reading. Rating 5/5 

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The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade

This is a fascinating true account of the fatal charge of the Light Brigade which took place during the Crimean War between 1854-56. The story begins with two gentlemen – James Thomas Lord Brudenell later Earl of Cardigan and George Charles Lord Bingham later Earl of Lucan. Both these princely characters have been rigorously dissected by Cecil in this masterful book. Both of them were rich coming into princely estates, aristocratic, ill tempered, foul mouthed, arrogant, incompetent and incidentally both were related – Earl of Lucan had married the youngest sister of Earl of Cardigan. Both were keen on military role and as is the wont those days in the British Army, both of them purchased commissions so they had virtually next to nothing military experience much less war time exploits to their name. Both were desperate to enter the theatre of war. The Earl of Lucan was considerably better and more disciplined than the Earl of Cardigan who was a lazy wasteful person more considered with the uniforms of his cavalry than military strategy. Their wish to enter war got fulfilled with the Crimean War of 1854-56 between Russia on one side supported by Cossacks and England and France as Allies on the other side. Cecil has done a magnificient job in taking readers to the incidents leading to the fatal charge of the Light Brigade. Both these personalities were seen fighting amongst themselves at the war scene and their inability or say incompetence in following orders is what led to the massacre of the Light Brigade at the hands of Russian. Brilliant book for all those who like history. Cecil’s narrative is quite brilliant, the language she has used is absolutely magnificient. There are a lot of characters in the book all Lords and Dukes and Earls and therefore one has to read slowly to understand it fully. Post the disastrous Crimean War, lot of efforts went to improving the lives of army men, including the welfare of army personnel, their training, education, etc. got a lot of boost post the the Crimean War.

Cecil Woodham-Smith (1896-1977) was a British historian and a biographer. Her other books include a biography of Florence Nightingale, The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845 to 1849, and the first volume of Queen Victoria, Her Life and Times

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecil_Woodham-Smith

Photograph above only for representational purposes and not for purpose of violating copyright.

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The Agony and the Ecstasy

stone

The biography of Michelangelo Buanorotti unarguably the greatest sculptor that mankind has ever known. Beautifully researched, this book by Irving Stone stands out for bringing to life one of the greatest artists ever. His passion towards his craft especially sculpting was immense whilst he was also a painter and later in life an architect as well. He loved three women in life, but unfortunately got to spend very little of his days with him. Some of his greatest works are well known world over and people travel from all the world to see it – David, Sistine Chapel, Pieta, Julius (bronze sculpture, which got melted in war), The Last Judgment, Genesis, Madonna of the Bruges, Cupid, The Deluge, Bacchus, Doni Tondo – these are magnificient piece of art even to this day. The intensity of the man, undying love towards his craft and his humaneness comes out very clearly in this most beautiful book written by Irving Stone. Goodreads 5/5

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