Jad Adams' new biography of Rudyard Kipling delves into the life of the first Englishman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1907. Despite the necessary detail of such a work, Adams' chronological recounting of Kipling's life and world at times delves too far into minutiae.
What brings the biography alive is its exploration of Kipling's private life and the ties between that life and his writing.
Though much has been written on this secretive author, his travels and writing, Adams' chronicle is an important study of one of England's literary heroes.
He tries to overturn preconceptions that the reader may hold about Kipling and the common perception of him as imperialist, misogynist and racist.
Instead, Adams' research places the life and work of this "literary chameleon" in the context of its time, arguing against the idea that he was the "politically incorrect" son of India.
The focal point of the biography is Kipling's sexuality, as Adams draws on the author's confusion, adoration of men and older masculine women. Adams analyses Kiping's personal particulars, from child abuse and abandonment to coping with a mentally ill sister, to consider how his much-loved fictitious characters emerged.
Published in the weekend FT Magazine on 14th January, 2006