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Editor reviews

"It's been years since I've been so delighted by a book and so surprised by it. When I'd finished I felt bereft, as if I'd lost an old friend." (Zadie Smith)
"I feel so strongly about this strange, funny, sad book that I hardly know where to begin. My enthusiasm feels almost limitless." (Observer)
"Funny and original, a startling book. By the end I was doubled up in tears, but throughout I was often doubled up with laughter. It is dazzling." (Vogue)
"Astonishingly good...a glorious book: funny, surprising and completely sui generis." (Sunday Times)
"Wholly original...a wonderful book which shows you don't have to be 'normal' to be happy." (Daily Mail)
"Captivating...Masters has managed to convey something of the beauty and mystery not just of mathematics but of the human spirit." (Sunday Telegraph)

Summary

Unique, transgressive and as funny as its subject, A Life Discarded has all the suspense of a murder mystery. With his characteristic warmth, respect and humour, Masters asks you to join him in celebrating an unknown and important life left on the scrap heap.

A Life Discarded is a biographical detective story. In 2001, 148 tattered and mould-covered notebooks were discovered lying among broken bricks in a skip on a building site in Cambridge. Tens of thousands of pages were filled to the edges with urgent handwriting. They were a small part of an intimate, anonymous diary, starting in 1952 and ending half a century later, a few weeks before the books were thrown out.

Over five years, the award-winning biographer Alexander Masters uncovers the identity and real history of their author, with an astounding final revelation. A Life Discarded is a true, shocking, poignant, often hilarious story of an ordinary life. The author of the diaries, known only as 'I', is the tragicomic patron saint of everyone who feels their life should have been more successful.

Part thriller, part love story, part social history, A Life Discarded is also an account of two writers' obsessions: of I's need to record every second of life and of Masters' pursuit of this mysterious yet universal diarist.

©2016 Alexander Masters (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

What members say

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Gripping biography of a 'nobody'

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes I would because it's an unusual and compelling story and is written intriguingly

What did you like best about this story?

The way Masters brings himself into the story: both the story of the diarist and the way Masters investigates it are pretty strange but it made me wonder what I would do in a similar situation.

What does Alexander Masters bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He read it very well. His voice of the diarist came over as breathy and child like and was well distinguished from his own which was important. It definitely influenced how I felt about the diarist and I don't know how reading it would have changed the way I felt but I think it would have done. The fact that the author was reading it made me trust that it was the right voice though.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It was quite melancholy, it pulled at my emotions as I could relate to certain things in the diaries but I didn't cry or laugh out loud

Any additional comments?

Masters does go about his project in a very odd way but I found it fascinating and engaging and it kept me gripped. I think there is a build up which makes the ending seem a bit of a let down but actually the mystery remains. It is an extraordinary story. I would like to read his other books now.

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  • Flavia
  • 07-07-18

like it very much

very reflexive. bitter sweet. it's very nice the way the author builds a character that is an author depicting somebody ordinary who really (in the story) exists - making a biography. the reflexiveness of it all is what makes it worth it. there is also a story within a story here. the story of tha author-character research, its novelties and surprises, and the story of his subject. The meta-story of a meta-author and the story of someone real that is a work of fiction . and the story of his subject is a story of any of his readers, any of us who have a life lived in pursuit of something that never comes to fruition (at least, never completely). playing with reality and fiction, with failure and happiness the author builds a story to think about. a marvelous story of nothing remarkable at all...