Mosaic: A Family Memoir Revisited
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A love story, a detective story, a book of secrets, a beautifully written journey into a forest of family trees.
After writing the definitive biographies of Lytton Strachey and George Bernard Shaw, Michael Holroyd turned his hand to a more personal subject: his own family. The result was Basil Street Blues, published in 1999. But rather than the story being over, it was in fact only beginning. As letters from readers started to pour in, the author discovered extraordinary narratives that his own memoir had only touched on.
Mosaic is Holroyd's piecing together of these remarkable stories: the murder of the fearsome headmaster of his school; the discovery that his Swedish grandmother was the mistress of the French anarchist Jacques Prévert; and a letter about the beauty of his mother that provides a clue to a decade-long affair.
Funny, touching, and wry, Mosaic shows how other people's lives, however eccentric or extreme, echo our own dreams and experiences.
organisations. One of the most difficult is Barclays Bank Taxation Service. It is not beyond them to take more than a year obtaining a small tax repayment from the Inland Revenue. When I urge them on, explaining my aunt’s condition and the need for money to pay for her care, I receive an acknowledgement beginning, ‘Dear Miss Holroyd’ and assurances that my correspondence is receiving attention. During the financial year I am looking at, the Barclays Taxation Adviser obtains a repayment of �184.70
lights were briefly installed in transatlantic liners, and others used by fashionable restaurants. Unfortunately ornamental glass was going out of fashion in the Thirties. Besides, there were catastrophic breakages when drilling this glass to the metalwork of his lights. My father seldom spoke to me about this early period of his life. His expectations, I believe, were set too high and his disappointment grew too painful. After the war, when I got to know him, he was struggling to find other
of the more infuriating obstacles in research is the hyphenated name. Sometimes this family appeared simply as Thomas, at other times they shot up the alphabet and attained Beaumont. In the hope that someone might remember them and respond to this appeal for information, I put into my article all I had discovered about Agnes May’s third husband since finishing my book. The second son of a successful steel manufacturer, Reginald Beaumont-Thomas was educated at G. Davison Brown’s preparatory school
fair-haired and fair-complexioned, with a ‘good war record’, and wealthy. When in London, he lived on his yacht moored on the Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament, to which he was ferried by launch. It was an impressive setting even for a period when rich men would be admired for demonstrating their wealth in outward show. Devoted to his wife and family, he nevertheless had an eye for pretty women. What this seemed to tell me was that I had been wrong in assuming the mysterious Iseult to
rather risqué London publisher at the time I began writing books in the 1960s. His authors ranged from Harold Robbins and Simon Raven to Gillian Freeman and Jean Genet. When I located Anthony, now living in France, he gave me an introduction to his brother Peter (who works at Sotheby’s) and together they helped me to understand something of Haselhurst’s post-war life. The Blond brothers’ memories of Haselhurst are very similar to those of the Dracopoli boys, Iseult’s children, in the 1920s. He