Christopher Isherwood is a writer whose work was often (in fact nearly always) biographical, and one who was always very open about his personal life. Interest in the life of Isherwood seems to have been rife recently, with a film about Isherwood and Bachardy released in 2008, an adaptation of Isherwood’s book ‘A Single Man’ released in 2009, and a BBC adaptation of ‘Christopher and his Kind’ released in 2011, as well as the seemingly countless revivals of ‘Cabaret’.
This book capitalises on the popularity, but does not cheapen Isherwood in the slightest. In fact, it serves as a touching and moving account of two lives that became completely entwined.
Bachardy and Isherwood met in 1952 – Isherwood a man of 48, and Bachardy just 18. The two fell in love, and this book charts their relationship through affairs, rows, huge amounts of time spent apart, and ends in 1970, sixteen years before Isherwood’s death.
This isn’t a rose tinted look at the romance by any means. Both Isherwood and Bachardy had affairs, and the men often spent months on end at the other end of the world from each other. A deep affection is clear in every letter though, and whilst the pet names the men have for each other are fairly saccharin (Dobbin and Kitty), the letters themselves tend to avoid plunging too deep into sentimentality.
Isherwood and Bachardy mixed in fascinating circles too – Cecil Beaton, David Hockney, John Gielgud, Gore Vidal, E.M Forster, Tenessee Williams, Vanessa Redgrave, Somerset Maugham, Truman Capote are all mentioned, as of course is W.H Auden – an old friend of Isherwood’s. It paints a fascinating picture of life in Hollywood at that time, and the letters pull no punches – gossip and bitching occur frequently, and with a biting wit too.
Anyone who has enjoyed Isherwood should read this – his writing is just as brilliant in letter form. And Bachardy, a wonderfully talented artist, also writes exceptionally well. Above all that though, this is a book for romantics. Isherwood and Bachardy make for a fantastic love story – if you want proof that love can be long lasting and endure through pretty much anything, then read ‘The Animals’.
(This Review was originally posted on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Animals_by_Christopher_Isherwood_and_Don_Bachardy)