From Publishers Weekly
The youngest daughter of the late novelist William Styron fashions a conflicted, guarded, ultimately reverential portrait of a deeply troubled artist. Dogged all his life by depression—which was not diagnosed properly until the devastating 1985 episode that later prompted Darkness Visible—the Virginia-born Styron was a difficult man to live with. Novelist Alexandra Styron (All the Finest Girls) delved into her father's papers at Duke University, his alma mater, to uncover the life and work of a man she never knew growing up in their Roxbury, Conn., home, along with her mother, Rose, and three older siblings. Styron was an only child whose mother died of cancer when he was 13, a Marine in World War II who never saw combat, and an abysmal student; though he was also a charming ladies' man and published his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, in 1952 at the age of 26, to great critical acclaim. The author was born just before her father finished his third novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner, in 1967, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the anticipation of his next work—"like a constant drumbeat under everything we did"—gripped her childhood, until Sophie's Choice was published in 1979. In this intimate portrait, William Styron emerges through his daughter's eyes as a towering talent who proves all too human. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* As renowned writer William Styron’s youngest child, Alexandra was often left alone with her hard-drinking and intimidating father and bore the brunt of his mercurial temperament, literary obsession, and casual psychological cruelty. The older she got, the more painfully aware she became of the deep divide between his private torments and star-studded social life as the feted author of The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) and Sophie’s Choice (1979). Styron himself revealed his terrible struggle with depression in his courageous memoir, Darkness Visible (1990). Alexandra’s blend of memoir and biography and forthright inquiry into her father’s inevitable date with madness tells for the first time the full story of her father’s creative triumphs and anguished failure to complete another novel before his death in 2006. Readers passionate about American literature will be fascinated by Alexandra’s insightful tales about her complicated father and his circle, which included Peter Matthiessen, Norman Mailer, and Arthur Miller. Even more affecting is Styron’s candor about how startling discoveries led her from anger to understanding as she researched and wrote this exquisitely powerful portrait of her father, a seminal writer sustained and harmed by his all-consuming artistic imperative. --Donna Seaman