This has been a good year for biographies, especially of all-rounders. Hugh Purcell did a lot of digging to uncover the nine lives of that secretive man John Freeman. A Very Private Celebrity (Robson Press Biteback, £25) lists them as follows: pre-war advertising executive, wartime officer (Monty called him ‘the best brigade major in the Eighth Army’), postwar MP, Labour minister, Bevanite rebel, TV interviewer, top-line diplomat and ambassador in Washington, DC, media mogul and star academic at a US university — all first-class of their kind — and fascinating to read about.
Richard Davenport-Hines is equally vivid in Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes (Collins, £18.99). They were altruist, boy prodigy, Treasury official, public man, lover (both homosexual and heterosexual), art collector and economic envoy. A rich story, brilliantly told.
This hardly leaves room for the first volume of Niall Ferguson’s gigantic biography Kissinger, 1923–1968: The Idealist (Allen Lane, £35), another universal man. What a lot of good reading I had in 2015!