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The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul

by Patrick French

Library Journal : This sweeping biography follows the Nobel laureate from his childhood in Trinidad to his college years at Oxford, through his struggles as a young writer, across continents, and eventually to the accomplished literary figure we know today. French (Tibet, Tibet) pulls extensively from private papers and personal recollections, having conducted five research trips to the University of Tulsa, where Naipaul's papers are located. Those familiar with Naipaul know he is controversial for his political and social views. What may not be as widely known, which French reveals at length, is the controversy of his private life. Naipaul married Patricia Hale at the age of 22. During the decadeslong marriage, he visited prostitutes and had an intense sexual relationship for 24 years with Margaret Gooding, whom he often treated harshly and physically abused. Hale, diagnosed with breast cancer, likely declined in health after learning of Naipaul's encounters with prostitutes. On the closing pages, French provides an empathetic image of Naipaul, leaving final judgments of this complex personality up to the reader. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.—Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA

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Publishers Weekly : Starred Review. V.S. Naipaul's biographer aims not to sit in judgment of the Nobel laureate, but to expose the subject with ruthless clarity to the calm eye of the reader. In this he succeeds admirably. Descendant of poor Brahmins, born in 1932 in Trinidad and educated in Oxford, Naipaul is haunted by matters of race, colonialism and sex. He is, says award-winning author French (Younghusband), both the racist (against those darker than he) and the victim of racial prejudice, tendencies that come through in his novels and in his treatment of friends and lovers. Haunting this biography are Naipaul's women. His wife, Pat, supported him, overlooked his affairs and his visits with prostitutes, and subordinated herself to his genius; Naipaul gave equally little to Margaret, his mistress. Naipaul and his books may be the subject of this work, but it is these and the other women whom he depended on and took for granted—from his editor to his mother—whose stories will keep that calm eye of the reader glued to the pages of this disturbing biography. 16 pages of photos. (Nov. 7)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms