Peter J. Conradi’s memoir Family Business includes a cast of characters ranging from his European Jewish forebears who came to Britain in the Victorian era to influential novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch, whose biography Conradi himself wrote. The arc of Conradi’s story travels, unusually, from the relative integration of his ancestors to his rebellion against this and his long association with Murdoch, another outsider in English society.
Against the upwardly mobile successes of his immigrant ancestors – with their exotic, multifarious stories – and his relationship with his beloved grandmother came the more immediate dysfunction of his parents’ marriage. Young, clever, bisexual Peter became a ‘knight errant’ protecting his mother, and set a precedent repeated later in his friendship with Murdoch.
Family Business is an enthralling book – a biographer’s autobiography – with numerous strands sensitively and thoughtfully explored, and including almost fifty previously unseen photographs.