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Masquerade: The Lives of Noel Coward

Oliver Soden

6 Reviews

Rated 0

Theatre studies, Biography: arts & entertainment, Biography: literary

This sparkling, revelatory biography by the award-winning author of Michael Tippett celebrates Noel Coward as a pioneer in life, art and sexuality - 'At last, the character of Noel Coward makes sense' (The Critic)

'This is the biography - truthful, sympathetic and thorough - that Coward deserves'
DAILY TELEGRAPH

The voice, the dressing-gown, the cigarette in its holder, remain unmistakable. There is rarely a week when one of Private Lives, Hay Fever, and Blithe Spirit is not in production somewhere in the world. Phrases from Noel Coward's songs - "Mad About The Boy", "Mad Dogs and Englishman" - are forever lodged in the public consciousness. He was at one point the most highly paid author in the world. Yet some of his most striking and daring writing remains unfamiliar. As T.S. Eliot said, in 1954, "there are things you can learn from Noel Coward that you won't learn from Shakespeare".

Coward wrote some fifty plays and nine musicals, as well as revues, screenplays, short stories, poetry, and a novel. He was both composer and lyricist for approximately 675 songs. Louis Mountbatten's famous tribute argued that, while there were greater comedians, novelists, composers, painters and so on, only "the master" had combined fourteen talents in one. So central was he to his age's theatre that any account of his career is also a history of the British stage. And so daring was Coward's unorthdoxy in his closest relationships, obliquely reflected throughout his writing, that it must also be a history of sexual liberation in the twentieth century. In Oliver Soden's sparkling, story-packed new Life, the Master finally gets his due.

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Praise for Masquerade: The Lives of Noel Coward

  • Assiduous, even-handed, readable . . . astute - The Times

  • This is a sympathetic and very touching biography . . . Not every biographer would be up to this, but Soden pulls it off - Spectator

  • This is the biography - truthful, sympathetic and thorough - that Coward deserves - Daily Telegraph

  • A captivating biography - Financial Times

  • At last, the character of Noel Coward makes sense - The Critic

  • Excellent . . . reveals Coward to be a more complex individual than we had acknowledged - Guardian

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Oliver Soden

Oliver Soden was born in Bath, and educated at Lancing College, and then at Clare College, Cambridge, where he took a double first in English. He worked as literary assistant to RSC founder-director John Barton, editing a volume of Barton's ten-play cycle Tantalus, before becoming a researcher on BBC Radio 3's long-running programme Private Passions.

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