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Confessions: A Life of Failed Promises

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an arresting, honest, memorable book, never naive or sloppy , tender and forgiving towards those who have hurt Wilson, contemptuous and merciless about his own cowardice, vanity and failings. N. Wilson's exquisite memoir tells the story of the wife he fell for as a student then betrayed - and the lifetime of lust and longing that led to a deeply poignant ending. You can unsubscribe from our list at any point by changing your preferences, or contacting us directly. Before he came to London, as one of the ‘Best of Young British’ novelists, and Literary Editor of the Spectator, we meet another A. For younger bookworms – and nostalgic older ones too – there’s the Slightly Foxed Cubs series, in which we’ve reissued a number of classic nature and historical novels.

We meet his father, the Managing Director of Wedgwood, the grotesque teachers at his first boarding school, and the dons of Oxford - one of whom, at the age of just 20, he married, the renowned Shakespearean scholar, the late Katherine Duncan-Jones. Wilson is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. His early life takes in life at boarding school and also the influence of his parents – his father, Norman Wilson was the Managing Director of Wedgwood in the 1950s.

As for Wilson the controversialist, there’s little sign of him here, though if you’re like me you’ll dislike what he says about Salman Rushdie, LS Lowry, psychotherapists and disbelief in God being a failure of the imagination. His memoir has many stories to tell: about Oxford, Grub Street, meetings with royals, tweed suits, Tolkien-olatry, religious muddle (as “a practising Anglican with periodic waves of Doubt or Roman fever”), travels to Israel and Russia, anorexia (his own and his mother’s), social drinking “on a positively Slavic scale”, near misses at becoming a painter or priest, and a career as a novelist, biographer and literary editor.

We follow his varying careers or attempted careers, from dabbling with academia and becoming engrossed in Grub Street to fancying himself as a painter and a priest. Before he came to London, as one of the "Best of Young British" novelists, and Literary Editor of the Spectator, we meet another A. But as Wilson explores what it means to live “untogether” with someone, his tone is affectionate and forgiving. Jacqueline Wilson, bestselling children's author * Deliciously delicate barbs are scattered throughout the pages. He was born in Staffordshire, in one of the many houses his father Norman quickly regretted having bought (he spent his life feeling conned by estate agents).We meet the grotesque teachers at his first boarding school and then the dons of Oxford, one of whom he marries when he is just twenty years old.

And he’s especially warm about his exasperating father, whose forced early exit from Wedgwood was unmerited and whose death happened at the same moment as a family landscape painting crashed from the wall in the room where his son was working. We follow his unsuccessful attempts to become an academic, his aspirations to be a Man of Letters, and his eventual encounters with the famous, including some memorable meetings with royalty. As for joie de vivre, she had, her son reports, “a greater capacity than anyone I ever met to squeeze discontent from the happiest of circumstances”. Good-humoured, unpretentious and a bit eccentric, it's more like having a well-read friend than a subscription to a literary review. His book is a mea culpa, a self-appraisal so damning (“writings not so good, deeds not so virtuous”) that it becomes almost endearing.Rory Knight Bruce, The Field * All these accounts are fascinating, rendered with both melancholy and self-deprecating humor.

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