Book Review: David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset

November 14, 2020

David Hockney: A Life

Catherine Cusset

This is a rather adoring depiction of  the life of the  gay British painter whose’ work, life and debonair blaséness is the very model of LA’s California Dreaming.  Cusset takes us from the early days of Hockney life, through his change and development, his early struggles and awakenings;  growing up poor, leaving a repressive England, the electric thrills of New York, the shock of Aids, creative upheavals and ends up alongside the pools of California.

Cusset dives into the enveloping oddness of Hockney’s deep love affair with Peter Schlesinger, the ‘love of his life’ and we are given an intimate viewpoint of their passion and agony.  The narrator gives us intimate, sometimes sad, but always ardent perspective on their relationship, and the ending of it tinged with melancholia . The prose here is delicate, precise, but brutal, it has  Northern bluntness to it, which focuses on the emotional content without dressing up the rawness of the emotional.   It feels like a Netflix script, scene after photographic scene, artfully described and the action taking place when the background has been readied but this doesn’t distract from the books charm, although there are a few factual errors in this bio-fiction.

Like his paintings this book aims to capture the quiet suburban heart of Hockney’s life, set against the places he placed himself to be the ‘Artist’, essentially Northern British, but encased in shiny plastic LA. Held up to that light he so famously loves and this engaging work of fiction allows it to fall in a flattering way, but also gives insight into the deep shadows that spring from its shimmering glare.

Cussets’ book is a homage to an artist adored, with the fiction and fact blended together, like canvas and paint to give an overwhelming sensation of complete narrative, capturing an element of movement which unfolds into a wider understanding of this charming man and his charmed life.

A most enjoyable read.

The book is out now from Arcadia Books @ £9.99

For more info or to order see the publishers website here: