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ON WHEELS by Michael Holroyd


by Michael Holroyd

Pub Date: May 14th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-374-22657-2
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Prodigious British biographer and memoirist Holroyd (A Book of Secrets, 2011, etc.) tells of memorable automobiles in his life and in the lives of those about whom he has written.

Do not mistake this neat little book for your kid’s chapter book, though it features a large font, heavily leaded; generous margins; innocent illustrations; and just over 100 pages. It is entertainment for grown-up readers, especially of the Anglophilic sort. Holroyd has become aware that, somehow, his many books, including the biographies, have often featured automotive transportation. This text is about the automobiles of his oft-married parents and his own coming-of-age with cars. The author grew up in the congenial company of his grandparents’ permanently parked Ford, but he didn’t learn to drive until he was 30. Holroyd’s story concerns the cars he drove, the cars his biographical subjects drove and how they were all driven. The telling is as full of wit as it is fraught with harmless collisions and idiosyncratic journeys. There’s a comic ride on an emblematic double-decker. Holroyd examines the Royal Automobile Club early in the 20th century, a time when it was dubious whether the gentle members of the distaff side were suited to take the wheel. He pays tribute to the memory of his first car and recalls his years in the army as a driving instructor who had no driver’s license. Throughout is the evocative nomenclature of vehicles, unsung or famous, of the past. The cavalcade includes Vauxhalls, Biancas, Lanchesters, Rolls-Royces, Fords, Zodiacs and Zephyrs. (The author favors Honda Accords).

An entertaining personal essay, short and sweet, about the cars in the life of Holroyd.