A Life Discarded

Alexander Masters

A Life Discarded is a biographical detective story. In 2001, 148 tattered and mould-covered notebooks were discovered lying among broken bricks in a skip on a building site in Cambridge. Tens of thousands of pages were filled to the edges with urgent handwriting. They were a small part of an intimate, anonymous diary, starting in 1952 and ending half a century later, a few weeks before the books were thrown out. Over five years, the award-winning biographer Alexander Masters uncovers the identity and real history of their author, with an astounding final revelation.

A Life Discarded is a true, shocking, poignant, often hilarious story of an ordinary life. The author of the diaries, known only as ‘I’, is the tragicomic patron saint of everyone who feels their life should have been more successful. Part thriller, part love story, part social history, A Life Discarded is also an account of two writers’ obsessions: of ‘I’s need to record every second of life and of Masters’ pursuit of this mysterious yet universal diarist.

Reviews of A Life Discarded

  • Praise for Stuart: A Life Backwards

    ‘It’s been years since I’ve been so delighted by a book and so surprised by it. When I’d finished I felt bereft, as if I’d lost an old friend’ Zadie Smith

    ‘I feel so strongly about this strange, funny, sad book that I hardly know where to begin. My enthusiasm feels almost limitless’ Observer

    ‘Funny and original, a startling book. By the end I was doubled up in tears, but throughout I was often doubled up with laughter. It is dazzling’ Vogue

    Praise for Simon: The Genius in My Basement

    ‘Astonishingly good … a glorious book: funny, surprising and completely sui generis’ Sunday Times

    ‘Wholly original … a wonderful book which shows you don’t have to be ‘normal’ to be happy’ Daily Mail

    ‘Captivating … Masters has managed to convey something of the beauty and mystery not just of mathematics but of the human spirit.’ Sunday Telegraph