Problematic Biographies: ‘Alan Turing: The Enigma’ by Andrew Hodges *** and ‘Dorothy M. Richardson’ by John Cowper Powys ****

Further to my question of yesterday as to whether all biographies are flawed, I thought I would write about two which I read at the tail end of last year and had problems with.

Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges *** 9781784700089
Like many, I purchased this because I very much enjoyed ‘The Imitation Game’; it then sat upon my TBR shelf for well over a year.  I felt that I should try my best to read it before 2016 was out, so I squeezed it into my November reading.

As far as biographies go, Alan Turing: The Enigma is incredibly long, running to 679 pages excluding the notes and index.  The whole was not as well written as I was expecting, and it did not feel very consistent in places.  The intricate mathematical details placed here and there did not always seem necessary, and it read almost like a Further Maths textbook at times.  It is quite a difficult book to categorise, and it is by no means a straightforward biography, nor a critique of Turing’s work.  It occupies a strange middleground, which consequently means that it does not sit quite right with the reader.

Turing was undoubtedly a fantastically bright man, but I thought that the telling of his story would be more compelling than it turned out to be.  I do not feel as though I’ve learnt much more about him from this volume, sadly; Hodges’ account is undoubtedly well-researched, but it is also rather disappointing.


Dorothy M. Richardson by John Cowper Powys ****
I borrowed this from my University library to aid with my understanding of Dorothy Richardson’s life; prior to this, I knew very little about her, if I’m honest.  It is incredibly slight; standing at just 48 pages, I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be able to give me a full picture of Richardson.  It wasn’t overly in-depth, and presented barely anything of Richardson as a woman; rather, it provides a critique of her Pilgrimage series, and how its techniques veer away from the traditional.  Regardless, it is very intelligently written, and Powys clearly admires Richardson.  I would recommend it as an introduction into her work, but I’m sure there must be a more thorough and authoritative biography out there somewhere.

Purchase from The Book Depository