Not long before his parents died in the 1980s, Michael Holroyd
asked them to write some account of their early lives. These two
documents, which, where they do overlap, differ dramatically --
they do not even agree on the date of Michael's birth -- mark the
starting point of this book.
A biographer by profession, Holroyd had always assumed that his
own family was perfectly English, or at least perfectly ordinary.
But old photograph albums papers found in the lining of an evening
bag, and crumbling documents in various public record offices
gradually yield clues to a constellation of starting events and
eccentric characters, a long, slow decline from English nobility on
one side, and on the other a dramatic Scandinavian ancestry, that
could have been imagined by, Isak Dinesen Fatal fires, suicides
bankruptcies, divorces, unconsummated longings, and the rumor of a
fabulous Indian tea fortune ... all these flow from the pages of
his parents recollections to which he adds his own.
Basil Street Blues is a memoir marked by humor gentle iron, and
a deeply sympathetic understanding of human failings Its most
interesting portrait is that of the author himself, the keeper of
such an extravagant heritage.
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