Masquerade: The Lives of Noël Coward (Paperback)
  • Masquerade: The Lives of Noël Coward (Paperback)

Masquerade: The Lives of Noël Coward (Paperback)

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Paperback 656 Pages
Published: 14/03/2024
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Waterstones Says

From musicals and plays to relationships and personal quirks, this fascinating biography of Noel Coward sheds new light on the life, career and incredible body of work of this prolific and truly multi-talented man.

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 Noël 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 Noël 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.

Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
ISBN: 9781474612821
Number of pages: 656
Weight: 500 g
Dimensions: 196 x 128 x 40 mm


What a pleasure it is to read a book into which so much labour, and so much affection, have evidently gone. But the labour is never flaunted and the affection is mingled with the same sophisticated irony that made Coward such a giant of the theatre. This is the biography - truthful, sympathetic and thorough - that Coward deserves - Nikhil Krishnan, Daily Telegraph

Assiduous, even-handed, readable . . . astute - Dominic Maxwell, The Times

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

A captivating biography - Kate Maltby, Financial Times

This is a sympathetic and very touching biography. Soden makes the daring decision to write occasional sections in imitation of Coward's style. Not every biographer would be up to this, but Soden pulls it off. The ending is particularly good - first skating around Coward's last days, letting him evaporate like Elvira, then giving us a chorus of biographers, boyfriends and household servants to narrate it in detail. But the whole book is beautifully done, and will last . . . There's every reason to think Coward will last forever - and this excellent biography is just what he deserves - Philip Hensher, Spectator

Soden, who has had access to unpublished diaries and letters, comes up with a far more complex Coward than we have seen before... This is a highly illuminating book that makes us reconsider Coward - Michael Billington, Country Life

Masquerade is a pleasure to read - not just for Oliver Soden's splendid survey of Coward's life, but also for the rhythm and tempo of his writing as he parries with his mercurial subject. This Coward commands our empathy: more real, more mortal, "more Noël than Coward", as Soden intended... His fallibility renders him more likeable, lovable even. With this enriched arc from conception to denouement, the myth is made man. At last, the character of Noël Coward makes sense. - Sarah Gabriel, The Critic

Praise for Michael Tippett: The Biography An exceptional piece of work - Philip Hensher, Spectator

Praise for Michael Tippett: The BiographyGenerous, game-changing biography - Observer

Praise for Michael Tippett: The BiographyThat rarest of things: a genuine landmark publication - BBC Radio 3 Music Matters

Praise for Jeoffrey: The Poet's CatSimply unforgettable ... one of the most beautiful and haunting books of recent times - Alexander McCall Smith

Praise for Jeoffrey: The Poet's CatInspired and original - Hilary Mantel

Praise for Jeoffrey: The Poet's Cat I intend to give a copy to everyone I like - Andrew O’Hagan

Soden's verve and way of handling the subject completely breathes new life into an absolutely extraordinary story . . . I really recommend it, it's a fascinating look at somebody who is still relevant fifty years after his death - Marina Hyde, THE REST IS ENTERTAINMENT

A masterly account of the Master - including stuff we didn't know before. And so beautifully and entertainingly written - Gyles Brandreth

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“A towering literary achievement”

A faithful account of Coward's life that studiously avoids innuendo and speculation by rooting itself in the source material, and which solves some of the mysteries left behind by earlier, equally impressive,... More

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