the observer Sat 25 October 2008
Much as dogs grow to resemble their owners, good biographies often take on a strong similarity to their subjects. Edward Burra painted unusual, vivid, insightful pictures. Privately, he exhibited loyalty, wit and a great, gluttonous appetite for gossip. Jane Stevenson soaks up every quality, although rather than mimicking her subject's reserve, she rambles - cheerfully and astonishingly comprehensively - through his seven epoch-spanning decades. Burra 'didn't like to see people too much' but wrote to his friends every day. He was an asexual who delighted in camp; a cripple who frequented frenetic demimondes; an admirer of extravagance who travelled with 'a roll of watercolour paintings and a few pairs of socks'. Art lay closest to his heart, but it was also 'fart'. A fascinating, eccentric look at a fascinating eccentric.