A Life Discarded (2016): Alexander Masters

★★★★

148 Diaries Found In A Skip

This was a little breath of fresh air in my recent reading. I’d read an article about the book some time ago, probably in the Guardian, which whetted my appetite (though in retrospect I wish I hadn’t seen it because it gave away all of the developments and surprises). Masters, who has written two other books based on extraordinary lives – neither of which I’ve yet read – here takes on another challenge: the intimacy and mundane fascination of writing a biography of someone whose name he doesn’t even know. All he has of this person, whom he christens ‘I’, are 148 of their diaries, stretching from the 1950s to the 1990s, which his friends Richard Grove and Dido Davies have discovered in a Cambridge skip. Tantalised by his subject’s anonymity, Masters sets out on a noble quest to give ‘I’ a voice at last and to find out what he can about this figure, whose very ordinary outward life hides an inner world full of passion, urgency, rage and thwarted ambition.

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