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The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome by Roland Chambers is a revelatory, absorbing and often chilling examination of an English icon and his controversial Soviet double life.
Roland Chambers studied film and literature in Poland and at New York University before returning to England in 1998. He has worked as a private investigator specialising in Russian politics and business, and is also a children's author. He currently divides his time between London and Connecticut, where his wife teaches literature at Yale. The Last Englishman is his first biography. Hugely controversial and dramatic true story told for the first time.
Arthur Ransome (1884-1967) is best remembered as the outdoor-loving author of Swallows and Amazons and its sequels, a popular series of British children's books of the 1930s and 1940s still in print and beloved today. However, in his earlier life, Ransome led a far different existence as a British correspondent in Moscow and supporter of the 1917 Russian Revolution. A friend of Lenin, Trotsky, and Bolshevik chief of propaganda Karl Radek, Ransome married Evgenia Shelepina, Trotsky's secretary, after a painful divorce from his first wife that alienated his daughter Tabitha. In this new biography, the first since Hugh Brogan's The Life of Arthur Ransome in 1984, Chambers (Rooftop Rocket Party), a children's author himself, focuses primarily on Ransome's years in the then Soviet Union. Citing recently released material from the British and Russian archives, he concludes that Ransome served as a double agent, as some British espionage insiders had suspected. VERDICT While Chambers has thoroughly researched Ransome's life, the details of the Russian Revolution dominate the narrative excessively, almost losing Ransome in the process. Russian and British 20th-century history enthusiasts will find this of interest, while devotees of Swallows and Amazons may wish for more about that side of Ransome's life.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.