New biography explores the secret love life of celebrated author John Wyndham
Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters includes previously unpublished love letters from The Day of the Triffids author
The first biography of the life of science fiction author John Wyndham is now available. It includes the first publication of a collection of love letters to his long-term partner and later wife, Grace Wilson.
Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters, by Dr Amy Binns, author and senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), explores Wyndham’s wealthy but traumatic childhood. This was transformed by a spell at the first mixed-sex public school Bedales from 1915 to 1918, the source of the strange but fervent feminism of Consider Her Ways and Trouble with Lichen.
The biography covers his formative years as a pulp fiction writer, his experiences as a censor during the Blitz and his part in the Normandy landings. He described his struggles with his conscience in a moving series of letters to Grace, the teacher with whom he had a 36 year love affair.
After the war, he transformed the searing experiences of wartime London, France and Germany into a series of bestselling novels: The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Kraken Wakes. But he remained intensely private, shunning fame and finally retiring to live anonymously with Grace in the countryside he loved.
With a decade of experience in news reporting, Dr Amy Binns is now a writer, researcher and journalism lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire.
Her PhD was on solutions to difficult behaviour on social media and other online communities, and she has contributed to a report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life on the intimidation of parliamentary candidates. She regularly speaks on Radio Five Live on social media issues.
Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters, is Dr Binns’ second book. She has also written about local history in the book “Valley of a Hundred Chapels”, also available on Amazon. She has also published papers and chapters on interwar feminism and social history. Dr Binns lives in Yorkshire with her husband and two children.
This was certainly an interesting book, like most people I knew little of John Wyndham beyond his famous books; The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids foremost, but the reclusive author led a long and interesting life.
His wartime experiences are recalled in verbatim reproduction of the letters he and his great love, Grace, exchanged, while other details come from Grace’s diaries and Wyndham’s brother Viv’s writing.
I found the section on his publishing career and his works most interesting, he founded a science fiction magazine with several contemporaries as well as producing the novels for which he is most well known.
His early feminism was also very interesting, perhaps stemming from witnessing his parents unhappy marriage and his father’s treatment of women in particular.
Throughout it all it is his relationship with Grace that sustains him, and although very few people were even aware of their love, and they only married later in life, Binns posits that all of his female heroines were versions of Grace, a love letter in every story he wrote.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.