Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681373652
Pages: 384
Publication Date: October 15, 2019

Images and ShadowsPart of a Life

by Iris Origo, with an afterword by Katia Lysy


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Images and Shadows, Iris Origo's autobiographical account of her early life, is as extraordinarily perceptive and humane and as beautifully written as her celebrated memoir War in the Val d'Orcia. Origo's father came from an old  and moneyed American family, her mother was the daughter of an Irish peer, and she grew up under the most privileged of circumstances, moving between family estates in Long Island and Ireland while also traveling the world. Tragedy struck when her father, not yet 30, died of tuberculosis and at his request—"Bring her up where she does not belong," he had enjoined his wife—her mother moved to Fiesole, where she and Iris developed a close friendship with their neighbor,  the influential American connoisseur and art historian—a great and fascinating character, too—Bernard Berenson. Introduced early to both American and British high society, Origo eventually found fulfillment in tending to the life of the desolate and deforested country estate she and her Italian husband bought in Italy, which is where she also discovered her true calling as a writer. In Images and Shadows, she paints portraits of her shy, loving father and her headstrong mother, 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 both the persistence and fragility of memory. Images and Shadows is an autobiography that is as thoughtful as it is profoundly touching.


Images and Shadows, written with all the lucidity and lightness of touch for which she was widely admired, is extremely enjoyable. It is an engrossing picture of an earlier age, clever, full of acute literary asides, and with a kind of philosophizing that seems to belong to a time when writers did not have to make excuses when they reflected on the principles of morality and religion that governed their lives.
—Caroline Moorehead, The Spectator

A masterly biographer here recounts her own story. All her work has delighted me, and in this autobiography she is at her best.
—Raymond Mortimer

An elegiac autobiography...illuminating.
Daily Telegraph

This is a small classic of autobiography in which Iris Origo recreates the lost mad world of Bernard Berenson and the Anglo-American artistic coterie in Florence. She is marvellous at nuances of place and personality, writing with a subtle mingling of candour and affection that lingers in the mind. Her courageous account of wartime struggles at La Foce in Tuscany where she lived after her marriage is one of the most moving memoirs of the Second World War I have ever read.
—Fiona MacCarthy

A true cosmopolite of vast energy and stunning intelligence... Origo was the rare person of privilege who used her position for the real betterment of the world.
—Nicholas Fox Weber, The New York Times