An extraordinary memoir by Iris Origo, who chronicled political life in A Chill in the Air and War in Val d’Orcia, and now turns inward to describe her own family, the work of writing, and the transcience of memory.
Images and Shadows, Iris Origo’s autobiographical account of her early life, is as perceptive and humane and beautifully written as her celebrated memoir War in Val d’Orcia. Origo’s father came from an old and moneyed American family, her mother was the daughter of an Irish peer, and Iris grew up in the most privileged of circumstances. Her father died of tuberculosis when he was only thirty, and her mother moved to Fiesole, Italy, where she and Iris developed a close friendship with the great connoisseur and art historian Bernard Berenson. Later, Origo and her Italian husband transformed a desolate and deforested Tuscan property into a flourishing estate, and it was there that she discovered her true calling as a writer. In Images and Shadows, Origo paints portraits of her shy, loving father and her headstrong mother, and describes beloved places, the books that formed her sensibility, and how she grew up and made her way in the world. She reflects on the pleasures and challenges of writing and evokes the persistence and fragility of memory. Images and Shadows is an autobiography that is as thoughtful as it is profoundly touching.