Page extent: 270
ISBN: 9781783198771
Binding: HardBack

John Osborne: 'Anger is not about...'

Peter Whitebrook

HardBack (08 Oct 2015)

This book has been nominated for both the Sheridan Morley Prize for biography, and the Theatre Book Prize

A story of a man whose star rose very quickly and very early, and fell slowly and inexorably.  A story of a man who knew himself perhaps too well, but not particularly wisely. It is exhilarating, perplexing and tragic.

This new biography offers the most rounded portrait of Osborne yet seen. By embedding him in a social and cultural as well as a biographical context, Whitebrook presents Osborne in a way that has not been attempted before.

It is the first book to properly explore the importance of his early collaborative work with Anthony Creighton, his lasting friendship with Pamela Lane, and his deep spiritual beliefs. It reveals the autobiographical background to Look Back in Anger and Watch It Come Down and places his literary achievement within a quintessentially English tradition.

Seldom has a dramatist so compulsively revealed so much of himself – his flaws, his anxieties, his passion and his hatred – as John Osborne. His was a dazzlingly high-octane performance and in a succession of increasingly ambitious plays written during the 50s and 60s, he was able to unite a profound, intuitive intelligence with a caustically honest depth of feeling. By refusing to submit to caution, he laid bare in some of the most poetic and incendiary language heard in the 20th-century theatre, not only his own struggles and contradictions but those of the era.  Almost single-handedly, he made the theatre important again.

Catapulted from obscurity to being the icon of his age when he was only twenty-five, Osborne was at the height of his fame equally celebrated and derided as ‘the Angry Young Man’. John Osborne: ‘Anger is not about’ examines his fractious, often chaotic personal life against the social and political background of his times. It provides an invigorating insight into his complex, often anguished personality and a fresh critical assessment of his writing. A vivid account not only of what it was like to be John Osborne, loyal and generous, scathing and brutal, but what it was like to be so restlessly a creative artist in the latter 20th century.

Click here to read an exclusive extract in The Independent

Additional Information

ISBN13 9781783198771
Binding HardBack
Page Extent 270


‘Peter Whitebrook's beautifully written and massively insightful book reveals a subject who was a bundle of contradictions… The book leaves one startled by Osborne's profligacy over money and sex, though it's fair to say that he remained unusually loyal to his first wife, Pamela Lane, and his last, Helen Dawson. But the book also moved me by its portrait of a deeply insecure man who turned his lifelong sense of a lost inheritance into some of the most resonant plays of our time. Mr Whitebrook is right to place Osborne alongside Beckett and Pinter as one of the dramatists who redefined contemporary theatre.’ Michael Billington

'Whitebrook’s account is readable and pacy. He writes with insight and clarity, and is especially good at sketching out the social, cultural and political context of the playwright’s life and times. He analyses Osborne’s relationship with his father, who died when the boy was only 11, and treats the psychology of his relationship with his mother, Nellie Beatrice, with imaginative sympathy.' Aleks Sierz, Tribune

‘As Peter Whitebrook’s thoroughly researched biography of John Osborne so ably demonstrates, the legacy of one of the most significant writers of the 20th century is simultaneously both invigorating and sad... a readable biography that goes rather further than one might expect, presenting a considerable amount of social history as it analyses the life, work and milieu of perhaps one of the unhappiest playwrights that has lived in modern times.’ British Theatre Guide

'When he is laying out the background to the establishment of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court... or detailing the censorship deliberations of the Lord Chamberlain's Office, this volume becomes much more than a digest of its many sources. With as clear an eye on his subject's foibles and character flaws as to his talent and achievements, and just as fearlessly judgemental of his many wives and partners as well as his associates in the profession, Whitebrook takes the reader through every peak and trough of a story that has plenty of both... There are also some fine anecdotes that deserve re-telling.'  Keith Bruce, Herald Scotland