Gabriele Annan

  • The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stan ford White Family by Suzannah Lessard
    Weidenfeld, 352 pp, £18.99, March 1997, ISBN 0 297 81940 2

The subtitle is a promise: ‘Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family’. It promises mystery and its unravelling, and delivers a new literary genre: a steamy bouillabaisse with puzzling lumps of biography, autobiography, genealogy, Freudian family romance, thriller and psycho-philosophical pronouncements floating about in it. Stanford White is the author’s great-grandfather. He was a glamorous turn-of-the-century architect in New York, very sought after in his time and still admired today; though most famous, perhaps, for his death. In 1906 he was shot dead while watching a performance of Mam’zelle Champagne at the Roof Top in Madison Square Gardens (which he designed). The trial that followed has been described as the most sensational in the States until O.J. Simpson came along.

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