This magnificent biography completes the most searching examination of Bertrand Russell's life and work. Whereas the first volume focused on Russell's colossal achievements in philosophy and his often tortured relations with friends and lovers, this volume has at its centre the tragic and deeply moving story of Russell's relationship with his first son, John.
His public activities are covered in abundant detail - his founding of a school, his political campaigning for peace and so on - but it also throws illumination on the most important relationship in Russell's life, the one in which he invested the most time and emotional energy and one that has remained largely untold.
This book traces that story, from Russell's ecstasy at John's birth to his frightened dismay at John's collapse into madness, showing the fervour of his hopes for education and parenthood in producing the independent, fearless and free generation of which he expected John to provide an example and the corresponding depth of his disappointment and despair when John turned out to be schizophrenic and the reform of society a good deal more difficult than he had imagined. In this way, Russell's hopes for John provide a microcosm of his hopes for society at large and, in both cases, the scale of his disappointment can only be appreciated by understanding the extent of his expectations.
By describing the private as well as the public sides of Russell's life, this book at last does justice to the complexities of one of the most extraordinary men of the twentieth century.