The Gift of Wings by Mary Rubio
Very interesting biography. However, unfortunately not quite as unbiased as I'd hoped to see from somebody who's done SUCH extensive research on her subject matter (of course I understand no biography can ever be completely unbiased... I guess "neutral" is a better word).
My initial impression was that I was glad I'd read the journals before reading this. First of all, there were events Rubio skimmed over very quickly, where I was glad to have a bit more background information than the biography gave. Secondly, I felt it provided me with a more nuanced view of LMM's life than I would have had if I'd only had the biography as a source.
The book is generally well-written, although I did feel like Rubio occasionally included too much background information. I understand the desire to share 20+ years worth of research, but I felt the book would have flowed better if she'd limited the detailed information about various people's ancestors and had used the space thus freed up to include the endnotes she was forced to leave out instead. Also, there were many repetitions, where Rubio repeated herself practically word-for-word over a space of just a few pages - close enough, anyway, that I noticed.
I really appreciated this "condensed" version of the journals - it's much, much easier to keep all the details of various events (the different lawsuits in particular) straight when they're presented with all the information in one place, rather than - as necessary in the journals - spread out over the course of several YEARS where you forget the first details before the last have even happened yet.
However, I do think that Rubio unfortunately drew a lot of conclusions that I don't believe she had grounds to make - not based on the information given in GoW anyway. Of course she may have had other interviews etc. to base her theories on, but as these were never mentioned in GoW the reader doesn't know about them, and it therefore comes across as idle speculation. The most obvious case is the alleged importance of a person in LMM's life, based solely on a page in one of her scrapbooks. Based on this information alone there simply isn't enough evidence to state anything for sure one way or the other. I for one didn't agree with her interpretation, and was sad to notice how Rubio twisted a lot of events in the following to suggest that her interpretation was the correct one. It may have been - I don't dispute that - but because of the way it was written, there doesn't seem to be enough evidence, and the entire speculation comes across as gossipy and sensational. Something I was very sad to see in what I'd hoped would be a serious account.
Don't get me wrong, it mostly is. It just wasn't as unbiased as I'd expected, and Rubio seemed at times almost patronizing towards LMM in places - putting a lot of emphasis on small events that made LMM end up looking petty and unkind. She may have been / probably was at times, but these unnecessary connecting of unrelated circumstances stood out like a sore thumb. Once specific example is the end note #38 of the Norval years, where Rubio makes a very unfavourable comparison that I think completely uncalled for and unjust.
That said, I still really enjoyed the book - especially the extra insights and small details that I didn't already know and that were based on Rubio's many and detailed interviews with LMM's various maids, friends and of course Stuart himself. Rubio's obviously passionate about her work, and it clearly shows in her writing, making it engaging and easily read.
So definitely a very, very interesting book - but like with all other biographies it should be taken with a grain of salt and a lot of common "source criticism", as no biography can ever claim to be 100% unbiased.