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An odd and quite wonderful little book. 

alexander mastersOne day in 2001, a friend of the author found 148 diaries in a skip at a building site.

Some years later, the books were handed on to Masters, author of the multi-award-winning biography Stuart: A Life Backwards.

What followed was a five-year investigation into the identity of the person only referred to as “I” throughout.

There are strong echoes of the film Finding Vivian Maier, about a collector who came upon a box of Maier’s photos and negatives after her death and turned an unpublished and unknown street photographer into a celebrated artist.

Except that what Masters finds in his case is not necessarily a case of a lost genius.

The diaries begin in 1952 when “I” is 14 and continue into the ’90s, covering home and school life, love and disappointment.

Masters’ investigative techniques are eccentric at times and are complicated by the fact it’s not certain how much concrete detail he really wants to uncover.

Nevertheless, bit by bit he starts to find out who the mystery diarist was (with one final big surprise at the end).

This is a delightfully strange little book that is less about the content of the diaries as the path Masters takes to uncover what lies at the heart of this extensively recorded life.

This review first appeared in the Herald Sun’s Weekend magazine. The book was published in May 2016.

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