Although this is not an authorised biography, it can’t exactly be described as an unauthorised one. Its subject, Jan Morris, gave several interviews for it, made material available, including the drawings that illustrate it, and read it before publication. There is also the small matter of the author, Derek Johns, having been her literary agent for 20 years.
Perhaps inevitably, then, the air around it can seem heavy with compromise, and this is only partially mitigated by the explanation that it is a “literary life” as opposed to a conventional biography. Johns’s observations proceed from Morris’s work rather than her life.
This ambiguity of purpose does, however, seem appropriate to the book’s enigmatic subject, who will turn 90 tomorrow. Morris is a travel writer who…
(Read more at The Times)