Books

Six Facets Of Light

Ann Wroe

‘She’s a genius, I believe, because she lights up every subject she touches.’ Hilary Mantel

A Spectator Book of the Year

Goethe claimed to know what light was. Galileo and Einstein both confessed they didn’t. On the essential nature of light, and how it operates, the scientific jury is still out. There is still time, therefore, to listen to painters and poets on the subject. They, after all, spend their lives pursuing light and trying to tie it down.

Six Facets of Light is a series of meditations on this most elusive and alluring feature of human life. Set mostly on the Downs and coastline of East Sussex, the most luminous part of England, it interweaves a walker’s experiences of light in Nature with the observations, jottings and thoughts of a dozen writers and painters – and some scientists – who have wrestled to define and understand light. From Hopkins to Turner, Coleridge to Whitman, Fra Angelico to Newton, Ravilious to Dante, the mystery of light is teased out and pondered on. Some of the results are surprising.

By using mostly notebooks and sketchbooks, this book becomes a portrait of the transitoriness, randomness, swiftness, frustrations and quicksilver beauty that are the essence of light. It is a work to be enjoyed, pondered over, engaged with, provoked by; to be packed in the rucksack of every walker heading for the sea or the hills, or to be opened to bring that outside radiance within four dark town walls.

Orpheus

Ann Wroe

For at least two and a half millennia, the figure of Orpheus has haunted humanity. Half-man, half-god, musician, magician, theologian, poet and lover, his story never leaves us. He may be myth, but his lyre still sounds, entrancing everything that hears it: animals, trees, water, stones, and men.

In this extraordinary work Ann Wroe goes in search of Orpheus, from the forests where he walked and the mountains where he worshipped to the artefacts, texts and philosophies built up round him. She traces the man, and the power he represents, through the myriad versions of a fantastical life: his birth in Thrace, his studies in Egypt, his voyage with the Argonauts to fetch the Golden Fleece, his love for Eurydice and journey to Hades, and his terrible death.

We see him tantalising Cicero and Plato, and breathing new music into Gluck and Monteverdi; occupying the mind of Jung and the surreal dreams of Cocteau; scandalising the Fathers of the early Church, and filling Rilke with poems like a whirlwind. He emerges as not simply another mythical figure but the force of creation itself, singing the song of light out of darkness and life out of death.

A Fool And His Money

Ann Wroe

Few books have captured the atmosphere of daily medieval life as well or as movingly as A Fool and His Money. Rodez, in southern France, was divided for centuries by a feud between two masters. This partitioned town thus acquired two distinct cultures. The story focuses on the strange case of Peyre Marques, a merchant who forgets where he has buried his gold. To read A Fool and His Money is like opening a shutter on to a sunlit medieval street teeming with characters, talk and noise - all coloured with the vibrancy of truth. --'Wroe is an excellent historian and an engaging writer with a beady eye for detail and an attractive turn of phrase. Best of all, she conveys a true feeling for the recreation of period and persons and place' Daily Telegraph --'History lives best when it is loved, and nobody who reads this book can doubt the author's love of her subject' Sunday Telegraph

Pilate

Ann Wroe

Although very little is known for certain about Pontius Pilate, the man who crucified Christ, this has not stopped writers in every age from imagining his life. In this extraordinary book, Ann Wroe recounts the lives of all our Pilates; among them the glittering medieval tyrant, devoted to gambling and getting around the law, and the wriggling modern pragmatist, whose dilemma over Jesus has been described by Tony Blair as 'a timeless parable of political life'. This is also the story of the man Pilate might have been; and the man who mirrors us. Ann Wroe shows how, in his struggles with fate and free will, Pilate's story has also become the story of ourselves.

Being Shelley

Ann Wroe

Four questions consumed Shelley and coloured everything he wrote. Who, or what, was he? What was his purpose? Where had he come from? And where was he going? He sought the answers in order to free and empower not only himself, but the whole human race. His revolution would shatter the earth's illusions, shock men and women with new visions, find true Love and Liberty - and take everyone with him.

Ann Wroe's book takes the life of one of England's greatest poets and turns it inside out, bringing us the life of the poet rather than the man. The result is a journey that is as passionate and exhilarating as it is astonishing. This is Shelley as he has never been seen before.

Perkin

Ann Wroe

The story of Perkin Warbeck is one of the most compelling mysteries of English history. A young man suddenly emerged claiming to be Richard of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower. As such, he tormented Henry VII for eight years. He tried three times to invade England and behaved like a prince. Officially, however, he was proclaimed to be Perkin Warbeck, the son of a Flemish boatman. A diplomatic pawn, he was used by the greatest European rulers of the age for their own purposes. All who dealt with him gave him the identity they wished him to have: either the Duke of York or a jumped-up lad from Flanders. It is possible that he was neither. It is also possible that, by the end, even he did not really know who he was. In Perkin Ann Wroe tells again a marvellous tale that is on the brink of being forgotten. She also dissects the official cover story. In doing so she delves into the secret corners of European history and produces a portrait of the late fifteenth century that is breathtaking in its detail.

Biography

Ann Wroe is the Briefings and Obituaries editor of The Economist. She is the author of six previous works of non-fiction, including Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Award and the W.H. Smith Award. She lives in north London.