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Tolkien: A Biography by Michael White is a comprehensive, in-depth, and entertaining biography of one of the greatest and most influential fantasy authors of modern time, J.R.R. Tolkien.


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Tolkien: A Biography by Michael White is a comprehensive, in-depth, and entertaining biography of one of the greatest and most influential fantasy authors of modern time, J.R.R. Tolkien.

30 review for Tolkien: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Over 100 million copies of the Lord of the Rings and 60 million copies of the Hobbit have been sold around the world. Each of these books have been translated into 30 languages including Serbo-Croat, Icelandic, Hebrew and Russian. Tolkien's works were a major component of 1960's hippie culture, and hundreds of Tolkien societies have flourished all over the world. With the release of the smash hit Lord of the Rings movie series, a new wave of Tolkienmania has swept the world, and a welcome develop Over 100 million copies of the Lord of the Rings and 60 million copies of the Hobbit have been sold around the world. Each of these books have been translated into 30 languages including Serbo-Croat, Icelandic, Hebrew and Russian. Tolkien's works were a major component of 1960's hippie culture, and hundreds of Tolkien societies have flourished all over the world. With the release of the smash hit Lord of the Rings movie series, a new wave of Tolkienmania has swept the world, and a welcome development too. With the blurring of moral values we have seen in recent years, we need an influence that makes the distinction between good and evil, that shows that the forces of evil threatening the free world, do not have to win. In this work, Michael White delves into hte life of the creator of Middle Earth, his birth in Bloemfontein, South Africa, the idyllic childhood in Sarehole, England ,and his mother's conversion to Catholic Church, and the tragic early death of his parents. Tolkien's Catholic faith would be a major part of his entire life. The book covers the development of Tolkien's thought and literary tastes, his romance with Edith Bratt, who was to be his wife for over 50 years, his action in the British Army during the First World War, and his academic career, his long years as an Oxford Don and Professor of Anglo-Saxon. It also covers the process behind the creation of Tolkien's most famous works, the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, and his lifelong creation, the world of Middle Earth and the Undying Lands. It also tells of his membership of the club the Inklings, which met for many years, in the pub, the Eagle and Child. The book tells much of Tolkien's character and of the acclaim and criticism of Tolkien's work, including the recent malicious libel against 'Tolkien the racist', 'Tolkien the sexist' and 'Tolkien the fascist' , by narrow minded politically correct bigots. Ultimately the massive following of Tolkien's works and the spin-offs they have inspired, speak for themselves. Long live the spirit of JRR Tolkien.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Josep Marti

    Well researched book, although I hated the author's pseudo-psychoanalysis of Tolkien. No, Tolkien wasn't Catholic because some motherless trauma nor all the other claims the author makes. Sometimes people go to the restroom because they need to and not because their subconsciousness tells them to. Besides the Freudian inventions, there was one little problem: no, C.S Lewis didn't have an affair with the woman he lived with during his college years. Humprey Carpenter's research on this matter is Well researched book, although I hated the author's pseudo-psychoanalysis of Tolkien. No, Tolkien wasn't Catholic because some motherless trauma nor all the other claims the author makes. Sometimes people go to the restroom because they need to and not because their subconsciousness tells them to. Besides the Freudian inventions, there was one little problem: no, C.S Lewis didn't have an affair with the woman he lived with during his college years. Humprey Carpenter's research on this matter is much more complete and better overall. Regardless, it was a good book and had a decent bibliography that gave me more material to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    A decent overview of the major events of Tolkien's life but nothing particularly insightful. Although it's billed as a critical life, there's nothing here resembling literary criticism. White's idea of a thoughtful response to the accusation that The Lord of the Rings is written for adolescent boys is to say, oh yeah? Well lots of girls read it, too, so there. Which rather misses the point. There are real answers to that accusation, but White doesn't provide them. The copyediting is terrible, an A decent overview of the major events of Tolkien's life but nothing particularly insightful. Although it's billed as a critical life, there's nothing here resembling literary criticism. White's idea of a thoughtful response to the accusation that The Lord of the Rings is written for adolescent boys is to say, oh yeah? Well lots of girls read it, too, so there. Which rather misses the point. There are real answers to that accusation, but White doesn't provide them. The copyediting is terrible, and I wish someone would give White and his copyeditor (if the publisher hired one) a lesson in comma splices and the difference between uninterested and disinterested.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Yvon Arsene

    wow is my first reaction after finishing this book. Michael white is such a good biography writer that he makes the reader live the reality of the story. Thank you Michael. i have learnt every bit of detail about the life of Tolkien and how he nurtured and developed his writing career. i not only learned world war history from the book but also south africa-british history, world war two, the enlisting of soldiers in the world war, the daily life of the british people in the 20th century and the wow is my first reaction after finishing this book. Michael white is such a good biography writer that he makes the reader live the reality of the story. Thank you Michael. i have learnt every bit of detail about the life of Tolkien and how he nurtured and developed his writing career. i not only learned world war history from the book but also south africa-british history, world war two, the enlisting of soldiers in the world war, the daily life of the british people in the 20th century and the overall history of fiction writing. i really thought middle age fiction was as old as time but i was really wrong. Tolkien really is the greatest fiction writer of all time. i am really sad that he had to die without knowing how his books really became a success even up to now in 2020 in Rwanda! i am forever his greatest fan. the additional fact that he was very christian made me like him more than i expected. this books deserves everyone's five star rating. He is such a legend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Helene

    I finished this book in a day and enjoyed it immensely! For a biography, this book is short and struck a good balance focusing on Tolkien himself and not the characters in his life. Admittedly, I would have liked to read more about Edith -his wife - and his children. Perhaps I will pick up a more detailed biography of Tolkien later, but for now this greatly satisfied my curiosity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Marcy Thomas

    A very insightful biography, giving me a better idea of Tolkien, but I feel like some parts could’ve been expanded on.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    Beautifully written!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    The lack of first hand sources leaves this biography feeling like a list of semi confirmed facts with a side of well meaning guesswork as to Tolkien’s nature.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Thom Willis

    First things first: I am new to the biography game. This is part of my attempt to break into the business. I actually picked up this book probably sometime in high school, but didn't get around to reading it until this summer. Which has probably worked out for the best. This was a bad biography. I am primarily comparing it to the bio of C. S. Lewis I read last summer by his friend George Sayer, which was a fantastic work. I really felt as if I had got into the mind of Lewis, and this was aided mo First things first: I am new to the biography game. This is part of my attempt to break into the business. I actually picked up this book probably sometime in high school, but didn't get around to reading it until this summer. Which has probably worked out for the best. This was a bad biography. I am primarily comparing it to the bio of C. S. Lewis I read last summer by his friend George Sayer, which was a fantastic work. I really felt as if I had got into the mind of Lewis, and this was aided mostly by the numerous direct citations Sayer produced from Lewis himself and those who knew him. In this work Michael White offered the bare minimum of direct quotations from Tolkien and his acquaintances. While Sayer essentially presented his theories about Lewis' interior life and then supplied the evidence supporting it (and, when appropriate, alongside evidence against his theories), White simply makes boldface assertions about Tolkien's likes and dislikes (and, very very occasionally, his motivations). At no point am I sure whether I'm reading his own opinion, or certain fact, or biographical consensus. An easy example, which is not actually about Tolkien, is when White simply states that C. S. Lewis' relationship with his house-mate Mrs Moore was sexual and romantic, calling her his "mistress". Thankfully I had read Sayer's biography already and knew the arguments and evidence both for and against this hypothesis (for it is an hypothesis) and had already formed my own opinion based on the facts. White asserts this "fact" in passing. Having read no other biographies of Tolkien, I have no idea how many similar "facts" about the Professor he likewise asserts. If I may make a guess, I would say that White has no real religious affiliation, certainly he is not a Catholic, and probably not an Anglican. This occurs to me for two reasons. He claims (well, he states it as if it is true) that Tolkien's religious fervor found its origin in his childhood, when he witnessed his widowed and newly-converted Catholic mother become ostracized by her Anglican relations and in-laws. It is entirely possible that Tolkien's faith was greatly a reaction against this, but I highly doubt that the man himself would have thought as much, and, although I have finished the book, am still left quite curious as to what he did think (or whether his thoughts on the subject are even recorded!) The second reason is that, later in the book, when discussing the religious mileau of Tolkien's Middle-earth, White says that the Professor "imposed" various aspects of his Christian faith into his pagan universe. Again, I am left very suspicious as to whether or not Tolkien would agree with his biographer. White make brief mention of Tolkien's theory of mythology and Christianity and faery tale at the inception of his biography, but has apparently forgotten much of this subject by the time he reaches his analysis of the Lord of the Rings. It sounds just as bizarre to me to say that Tolkien "imposed" aspects of Christianity upon his pagan world as it would be to say that Saint Paul "imposed" his experiences of Jesus Christ onto the writings found in the Old Testament. Tolkien believed that the reality of the Triune God of Christianity shone through the pagan world just as much, or at least nearly as much, as it did through the Jewish world. Whether or not folk believed in Him, He still existed and exerted an influence, albeit an influence cloaked and hidden in the poetic or philosophical language of the time. So for elements of Christianity to be discernible in the pre-Christian world of Middle-earth should be no surprise (and certainly no imposition) given the knowledge that Tolkien believed that elements of Christianity were indeed discernible in the pre-Christian world of our Earth. Moving on to the only part of this book that I enjoyed, I will say that I actually enjoyed reading White write about the Lord of the Rings. This book clearly came from a place of deep, deep love and respect for the book. It would seem that the publication of the Lord of the Rings is an actual miracle, given all the trouble Tolkien had with publishers. It is very easy to compare Tolkien with his cinematic counterpart, George Lucas, who likewise is notoriously cantankerous and tinkered almost obsessively with his works long after their release. Tolkien is an intensely interesting figure. My interest is not lessened in the slightest given that I have cause to believe I would not enjoy spending time with him at all. I think the next biography I read will another Tolkien. I want to follow this rabbit hole as far as it goes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim Syler

    If this book were to be summed up in one word, it would be: Shallow. That doesn't mean that it's bad, necessarily, just that it is certainly nothing like an in-depth treatment. It bounces between considering Tolkien's life, his personality, and his work, without giving a truly satisfactory account of any of these. This may be precisely what you want if you want a relatively brief and breezily-written overview of Tolkien, his life, and his work, but if you're looking for fodder for serious study, If this book were to be summed up in one word, it would be: Shallow. That doesn't mean that it's bad, necessarily, just that it is certainly nothing like an in-depth treatment. It bounces between considering Tolkien's life, his personality, and his work, without giving a truly satisfactory account of any of these. This may be precisely what you want if you want a relatively brief and breezily-written overview of Tolkien, his life, and his work, but if you're looking for fodder for serious study, look elsewhere. The best bits, in my opinion, are first, the discussion of his relationship with C.S. Lewis, and second, the first half of the last chapter, where he reviews the negative reactions Tolkien's work has received over the years. But overall, I am disappointed in the work. I caught White in a couple of examples of shoddy scholarship (detailed below), and if I caught two, there are very likely more. In the Introduction, White implies that he will “[Question] Tolkien's inner drives [and try] to identify the man's personal demons.” He does this, I suppose, but it is in little bits interspersed among the larger context of Tolkien's life and work. White invokes Jung in the final words of the book; I think I would have vastly preferred an in-depth character study inside a framework of the chronology of his life and an overview of his work than a short work that gives all three aspects roughly equal time (including an obviously amateurish attempt at literary criticism). Who was this man? What sort of person could write such a masterpiece? White addresses these questions, true, but only in a scattered and disjointed way. I have Carpenter's more definitive biography on order; hopefully that will give me more of what I want. Final verdict: If you want a fairly brief and easy to read overview of Tolkien's life, work and character, this book might just do the trick. Also, if you have read other biographies and are interested in a less hagiographic (but still respectful) treatment, you may find this valuable. Otherwise I recommend you look elsewhere. --- I found two instances where White's scholarship leaves something to be desired. Here they are: P. 13: The author has failed to do his research. The tarantula that bit Tolkien, called a baboon spider in South Africa, has a bite that, while painful, is never fatal. It's unlikely that he was in real danger. http://www.scienceinafrica.com/old/in... P. 85: White claims that the oldest surviving works of fantasy are the “Lucianic Satires,” but his scholarship seems to again be lacking; that phrase seems to be reserved for satires by later authors in Lucian's (not Lucien, as White spells it) style. The work White is probably referring to is “True History,” which is often called the first science fiction novel, which makes White’s claim that it is the first work of fantasy as opposed to science fiction problematic.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    The subject matter is fascinating, and the Inklings are a favorite topic of mine to read about. But do not read this book. It seems to have gone to print without anyone editing it or proofreading it. There were several instances of clunky writing and even outright errors. One example towards the end of the book that I remember is referring to the actor portraying Elrond as "Hugo Weaver." Not the greatest of typos, but how does this get to the printer with no one noticing? If you're interested in The subject matter is fascinating, and the Inklings are a favorite topic of mine to read about. But do not read this book. It seems to have gone to print without anyone editing it or proofreading it. There were several instances of clunky writing and even outright errors. One example towards the end of the book that I remember is referring to the actor portraying Elrond as "Hugo Weaver." Not the greatest of typos, but how does this get to the printer with no one noticing? If you're interested in this topic, I recommend Humphrey Carpenter's "The Inklings" as well as "The Fellowship" by Philip and Carol Zaleski. Carpenter also has his own biography of Tolkien, but I've only read some of it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Roxana

    Reading about Tolkien's life was absolutely amaizing and interesting. I learned a lot about the genius who invented a complete other world for his readers. Loosing his father and then his mother in a very young age, his life wasn't easy. He blame his mother death for the reyect that their family react when her mother decided to became Catholic, that feeling made him a Catholic believer to the point that he made his wife became Catholic in order to marry her. There is a lot to say about his life Reading about Tolkien's life was absolutely amaizing and interesting. I learned a lot about the genius who invented a complete other world for his readers. Loosing his father and then his mother in a very young age, his life wasn't easy. He blame his mother death for the reyect that their family react when her mother decided to became Catholic, that feeling made him a Catholic believer to the point that he made his wife became Catholic in order to marry her. There is a lot to say about his life and about his ideas, but what I really loved was to learn that he used to write letters to his children for Christmas, writing as he was Santa Claus, he also invented stories for them and those are maybe the very origin from where The Hobbit came. His amaizing imaginagion, his love for the language and the scandinavian mitology created made it possible for him to créate the wonderful and complete Word where The hobbits and other habitants from Middle Earth lived. If you loved the Lord of the Ring and other's Tolkien creations you must read this book

  13. 5 out of 5

    Peter Jones

    The last decade has seen an amazing resurgence in interest in J.R.R. Tolkien. His Lord of the Rings books and the Hobbit have been pushed back into the center of the publishing world by Hollywood and Peter Jackson. I love his books. My children love his books. But unlike C.S. Lewis, Tolkien’s life has been a relative mystery to me. I enjoyed reading this short biography. I am not sure how accurate it is because it is the only information I have read on Tolkien. It is not comprehensive. It covers The last decade has seen an amazing resurgence in interest in J.R.R. Tolkien. His Lord of the Rings books and the Hobbit have been pushed back into the center of the publishing world by Hollywood and Peter Jackson. I love his books. My children love his books. But unlike C.S. Lewis, Tolkien’s life has been a relative mystery to me. I enjoyed reading this short biography. I am not sure how accurate it is because it is the only information I have read on Tolkien. It is not comprehensive. It covers his early life and then spends the majority of the rest of the book looking at Tolkien’s life through the prism of how he wrote his books and the various struggles with publishing, etc. The author spends little time on his teaching and work as a professor. He spends some time on his relationship with Edith, but not much time on his relationship with his children. Still the book seems like a good introduction to Tolkien’s life, especially his creation of Middle-Earth. I enjoyed the section on C.S. Lewis as well. Despite them being linked in the Christian mind they were worlds apart in many ways.

  14. 5 out of 5

    K.H.

    Nothing new whatsoever at all here compared to Carpenter's biography - which still stands as probably the best book about Tolkien yet written. This book was obviously commissioned to coincide with the release of the films and the author does little to make this anything more than an overview of Tolkien's life with no real emotion or opinion. The most impressive thing about it, at least the version I read, was the cover. Fans interested in learning about the man who created Middle-Earth would do Nothing new whatsoever at all here compared to Carpenter's biography - which still stands as probably the best book about Tolkien yet written. This book was obviously commissioned to coincide with the release of the films and the author does little to make this anything more than an overview of Tolkien's life with no real emotion or opinion. The most impressive thing about it, at least the version I read, was the cover. Fans interested in learning about the man who created Middle-Earth would do best to stick with the aforementioned biography by Humphrey Carpenter, the two books by Tom Shippey (especially The Road to Middle-Earth) and then a good going over of the The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. This book is an unnecessary addition to an already saturated selection of Tolkien related books seemingly aimed at fans of the films rather than people interested in the man behind the books. (Although, in the author's defense, he did point out very rightly that many would be offended by what Jackson would eventually put on the screen.) Simply put, read Carpenter's biography and leave this alone.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Nebauer

    A good biography overall, though not superior to Humphrey Carpenter's earlier work. White is not an uncritical admirer, but he does attempt to deal with the main criticisms leveled at Tolkien's work. He might have read some of Ursula le Guin's essays in 'The Language of the Night'on why Lord of the Rings is not just 'for adolescent boys'. The work is marred by some poor editing (uninterested and disinterested are not interchangeable). There are also a number of factual errors that, though not cen A good biography overall, though not superior to Humphrey Carpenter's earlier work. White is not an uncritical admirer, but he does attempt to deal with the main criticisms leveled at Tolkien's work. He might have read some of Ursula le Guin's essays in 'The Language of the Night'on why Lord of the Rings is not just 'for adolescent boys'. The work is marred by some poor editing (uninterested and disinterested are not interchangeable). There are also a number of factual errors that, though not central to the story, are nevertheless irritating. Germany did not invade Czechoslovakia five days after Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement on Sept 29, 1938. Benes resigned as Czech president (knowing that the days of the Czechoslovak republic were numbered). The German invasion of Bohemia did not take place until March the following year. Nevertheless a well done biography. Also god to see a discussion of the Peter jackon film adaptation.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Harker US Library

    Michael White inserts his own interpretations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as he describes the life of their famed creator, J. R. R. Tolkien. From the death of his parents, to his distressing experiences on the battlefields of the First World War, to his tumultuous relationship with fellow author C. S. Lewis, Tolkien and his life are documented and analyzed in full in this biography. I found the explanation of Tolkien’s writing process, which he called “sub-creation,” particularly fas Michael White inserts his own interpretations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as he describes the life of their famed creator, J. R. R. Tolkien. From the death of his parents, to his distressing experiences on the battlefields of the First World War, to his tumultuous relationship with fellow author C. S. Lewis, Tolkien and his life are documented and analyzed in full in this biography. I found the explanation of Tolkien’s writing process, which he called “sub-creation,” particularly fascinating. Unfortunately, the author makes frequent references to his own opinions of certain events in Tolkien’s life, making the entire book seem slightly more subjective than one would expect of a work of nonfiction. Aspiring writers who wish to understand how Tolkien “sub-created” an entire new world may enjoy this biography, but devoted Middle-Earth enthusiasts who want to learn more about the fantasy realm itself may feel slightly disappointed. – Andrew R. ‘17

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shaleen

    I was most interested in his relationship with C.S. Lewis and this book was very enlightening. I never knew why it took him so long to finish the Lord of the Rings, but the more I found out about his personality, the more it made sense. I was most interested in his relationship with C.S. Lewis and this book was very enlightening. I never knew why it took him so long to finish the Lord of the Rings, but the more I found out about his personality, the more it made sense.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Arianna Bonardi

    Superficial but deserves a chance. Better than wikipedia ;) hope to find a more detailed biography about Tolkien :)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jess Tait

    Really interesting, now I want to re-read all his books for the gazillionth time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maurice Williams

    J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" captured the imagination of a whole generation. "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," "Dragon lance," and many other stories of mythical beings, magic, even witchcraft, can cause concerned parents much anxiety. You can't beat them! Your children are going to read these stories anyway. But you can join them. In other words, you can meet these authors on their own grounds within your loved ones' minds. Read a biography, preferably an autobiography. Humphrey Carpe J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" captured the imagination of a whole generation. "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," "Dragon lance," and many other stories of mythical beings, magic, even witchcraft, can cause concerned parents much anxiety. You can't beat them! Your children are going to read these stories anyway. But you can join them. In other words, you can meet these authors on their own grounds within your loved ones' minds. Read a biography, preferably an autobiography. Humphrey Carpenter has written a biography of the man behind "Lord of the Rings." Carpenter paints the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, how Tolkien thinks, what inspired Tolkien to write "Lord of the Rings," and what an immense amount of effort Tolkien put into his writing. Tolkien, always intrigued with languages, and teaching at Oxford University, became a master of Gothic, Old Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Russian, Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old and Middle High German, Old English and the folklore of these languages. He even invented two languages: Quenya and Sindarin to retain what he thought were the best features of Northern European Languages. He invented both the grammar and script to accompany these languages. He wanted to capture something that resembled the oral folklore of these ancient Northern European languages before the oral folklore vanished. Many parents worry that this kind of literature promotes a pagan, amoral mentality that will lure their children away from the values they want their children to cherish. Parents probably don't have the time or interest to read Tolkien's works. His works are very long and contain many unfamiliar details and names. A good biography, on the other hand, is easily read. Carpenter has captured the mindset of Tolkien. Tolkien had a religious conversion and helped convert his friend, C. S. Lewis from atheism. Although God is not openly worshiped in "Lord of the Rings," Carpenter argues that Tolkien's writings are the writings of a deeply religious man. Tolkien's universe, as revealed in his earlier work, "The Simarillion," is ruled by "The One," who is Tolkien's mythological equivalent of God. Beneath "The One" is "The Valar," a group of holy ones that guard the world and are subject to "The One," very much as angels are subject to God. If you are worried about "Lord of the Ring's" influence over your loved ones, this biography is a good place to start "joining those you can't beat."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Krysta

    Because the book isn't well cited, much of what the author writes seems like speculation. How do we know how Edith was feeling if there are no quotes from friends, diaries, or letters? Does the author just think she ought to feel patronized? And how does he know that Mrs. Moore was C. S. Lewis's lover when most scholars agree there's little evidence either way? Does he just think that's more interesting when drawing a contrast between Lewis and Tolkien? There's also a lot of unconvincing pyschoa Because the book isn't well cited, much of what the author writes seems like speculation. How do we know how Edith was feeling if there are no quotes from friends, diaries, or letters? Does the author just think she ought to feel patronized? And how does he know that Mrs. Moore was C. S. Lewis's lover when most scholars agree there's little evidence either way? Does he just think that's more interesting when drawing a contrast between Lewis and Tolkien? There's also a lot of unconvincing pyschoanalysis. The author, for instance, is convinced Tolkien became a "fanatical Christian" (as he calls him towards the end of the book) only because his mother died when he was young. A slight disdain for religion is subsequently found throughout the rest of the book. Because, I suppose, it's not real. It's merely an adolescent hang-up. Finally, the author accuses Tolkien of being uncomfortable writing about women, suggests the LotR is subpar because of a lack of sex, and continually insists that Tolkien worships women because he was old-fashioned and read a lot of medieval literature (even though Tolkien writes in a letter to his son that women should never be put on pedestals and should be considered "companions in shipwreck.") These moments mar what could have been an interesting look at Tolkien's life, including his eccentricities when it comes to driving cars or writing to his publishers. We are, I believe, supposed to be glad that we finally have the "real" Tolkien here, not the idol other biographers have given us. Yet, in the end, I can't tell if it's real or not because not much is sourced and the author's opinion so often intrudes upon the facts.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Any biographer of Tolkien has so much material - letters, academic work, the memoirs of others, and the writings to go through before he can tell the story of his life. But when we get to the interior life of the man, it becomes more difficult. What we do know is that Tolkien had a great intellect and imagination, capable of writing not only great works but able of creating a coherent imaginary world for his characters to live in and the reader to enjoy. White has lived with the Lord of the Ring Any biographer of Tolkien has so much material - letters, academic work, the memoirs of others, and the writings to go through before he can tell the story of his life. But when we get to the interior life of the man, it becomes more difficult. What we do know is that Tolkien had a great intellect and imagination, capable of writing not only great works but able of creating a coherent imaginary world for his characters to live in and the reader to enjoy. White has lived with the Lord of the Rings for many years. After completing the book, I felt I knew Tolkien better and am able to appreciate his writings better.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    An absolutely marvellous biography from an author who did not know Tolkien. It’s good to compare and contrast with Humphrey Carpenter’s authorised biography. Great explanatory notes for the Silmarilion and Tolkien’s frustration in the publishing the LOTRs. Sadly after over forty years of writing Silmarilion, Tolkien never saw it published in his lifetime. His son Christopher Tolkien, organised his notes etc. and with love and patience published his father’s book. This book, as is any by, on or a An absolutely marvellous biography from an author who did not know Tolkien. It’s good to compare and contrast with Humphrey Carpenter’s authorised biography. Great explanatory notes for the Silmarilion and Tolkien’s frustration in the publishing the LOTRs. Sadly after over forty years of writing Silmarilion, Tolkien never saw it published in his lifetime. His son Christopher Tolkien, organised his notes etc. and with love and patience published his father’s book. This book, as is any by, on or about Tolkien, is a must. Quite a delightful read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    MarkP

    The Lord of The Rings introduced me to the fantasy genre almost 40 years ago but more than this it transformed the way I looked at life. I've never read a biography about Tolkien but I found this a fascinating account of his life and his motivations for creating Middle-Earth. It has inspired me to make an attempt at reading The Silmarillion again too which is long overdue.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Really liked this book! It could be because I am obsessed with the LOTR, but I also think that this biography has merits of its own. First of all, it is not at all heavy, it flows and matches Tolkien's life events to the moments in which he drafted his books and other works. Secondly, there is, of course, a huge focus on the Middle Earth related works, and this I appreciated a lot. Finally, his friendships are also analysed, especially the one with C.S. Lewis, another author I admire; and the co Really liked this book! It could be because I am obsessed with the LOTR, but I also think that this biography has merits of its own. First of all, it is not at all heavy, it flows and matches Tolkien's life events to the moments in which he drafted his books and other works. Secondly, there is, of course, a huge focus on the Middle Earth related works, and this I appreciated a lot. Finally, his friendships are also analysed, especially the one with C.S. Lewis, another author I admire; and the complexity behind their relationship was very well presented. After having read this book, I like Tolkien even more: his creativity, his thoroughness, his perseveration, his quirkiness and anti-modernity in an ever changing 20th century.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karen Nagai

    Great! I really got excited about his life, difficulties, perfectionism and its crusty. But what I envy more is the weekly meetings he used to have with friends to discuss and revise their works... It was like a secret club with purpose!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Well written and informative. I didn't realize how long he worked on the "The Lord of the Rings." Nor did I realize many of the aspects of his life. Glad I had the opportunity to read this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lungi

    Brilliant account of the mind and man behind Middle Earth!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Tubbs

    It is not always flattering of Tolkien which is an indicator for me that the author has searched for the truth.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    This is a fantastic biography of Tolkien and his career. It gave me many other books to look at. It covers his education and the many years of writing and revising of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This gives the man somewhat of a god-like status, although one also must realize the amount of agony and patience he had in writing such a fatastic set of books. Reading though some of the literature that inspired him also helps bring connections to events of the time, as well as the classical style o This is a fantastic biography of Tolkien and his career. It gave me many other books to look at. It covers his education and the many years of writing and revising of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This gives the man somewhat of a god-like status, although one also must realize the amount of agony and patience he had in writing such a fatastic set of books. Reading though some of the literature that inspired him also helps bring connections to events of the time, as well as the classical style of epic he was pulling from. I would highly recommend.

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