‘What is life?’ asked the poet Shelley, and could not come up with an answer. Scientists, too, have not solved the puzzle. Yet biographers and obituarists continue to corral lives in a few columns, or a few hundred pages, aware all the time how fleeting and elusive their subject is. In ‘Lifescapes’, acclaimed biographer and obituarist Ann Wroe reflects on a career spent pursuing life: a process, as she sees it, not of chronological narration but of trying to seize souls.

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