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Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis Paperback – 5 Jun 2009


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Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis + Naples '44: An Intelligence Officer in the Italian Labyrinth + Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography
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Product details

  • Paperback: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (5 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330427083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330427081
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 438,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julian Evans is the author of Transit of Venus, an account of a journey to the heart of the US nuclear-missile testing programme, and Semi-Invisible Man, the acclaimed biography of Norman Lewis.

In 1990 he left his job in London to island-hop across the Pacific Ocean by ship, small plane and boat, a journey that ended six months later on Kwajalein atoll in the mid-Pacific, home to the USA's secret nuclear-missile test range. The book that resulted, Transit of Venus, was described by Norman Lewis as "far and away the best book about the Pacific of our times" and the Lonely Planet guides as "the best modern travelogue about the Pacific".

Julian writes for English and French newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, Prospect, Times Literary Supplement and L'Atelier du Roman. He is a trustee of English PEN, a recipient of the Prix du Rayonnement de la Langue Française from the Académie Française, and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of the West of England.

His highly praised 2008 biography of the writer and adventurer Norman Lewis, Semi-Invisible Man, was a Book of the Year in the Guardian, Spectator and New Statesman. He is married to the artist Natasha Dikaya, and they have two children.

Product Description

Review

'This fascinating biography of Graham Greene's favourite travel writer will keep you going for weeks.'
-- The London Paper

`A model biography, shrewd, loving and written with grace and wit' -- Daily Telegraph

`Masterly... In the retelling of [Lewis's] life, one could not hope for a more sympathetic or intelligent life' -- Observer

Review

`A model biography, shrewd, loving and written with grace and wit'

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 14 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
More often than not a biography is bought because of an interest in the life of the famous subject. To be honest, when I bought this book I had heard the name of Norman Lewis, but could not pick him out in any 'virtual' identity parade. Because of the subject's involvement with motor racing and Spain in the 1930s, amongst many other things, I bought this book on a whim and am very glad I did.
Some 800 odd pages later, I can say that I know an awful lot about someone who led the sort of life that will never be seen again. If you like 'getting under the skin' of the subject, Julian Evans biography of Norman Lewis is pretty much as good as gets.

Forget the fact that the subject is not an 'A list' celebrity, there is more to life than that, just buy it for the superb writing and the collection of odd people that you will come to know via this book. Possibly the best biography I have read in years.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Byron on 24 July 2009
Format: Paperback
I had already read some of Norman Lewis works starting with 'The Honoured Society' and have found him to be a rewarding and highly interesting man and writer. His experiences, travels and exploits could make you feel inadequate however!
This is an excellent biography and can hopefully further elevate Lewis's stature as a traveller and writer because up to now he has probably been more 'admired than famous'. It is a convincing and comprehensive account of his life and works with great detail, lots of adventure, anecdotes and vignettes. By the end I seemed to have been reading this work for weeks because it is a long book and not one to skim read, but I can honestly say that getting to the end was hardly a goal - I could have carried on reading it for months. A fine achievement from Julian Evans and it has inspired me to read even more of Lewis's works.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By S Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first came across Norman Lewis's work just over ten years ago, looking for something a little different in the local library, I came across a tatty copy of his book Naples '44 and somehow or other (not the cover, it was an early Eland paperback edition fronted with just text) I picked it up. Returning home I made a cuppa, rolled a fag settled back and was quietly stunned by the quality of the vivid, shrewd, observational writing. This was something special and as far as N.Lewis non-fiction went I have read everything available since with great joy.

Ten years later - I notice someone has writing a biog of N.Lewis, some fellow called Julian Evans (never heard of him) and it suddenly struck me how little I actually knew about N.Lewis life. Having been credit crunched I had to restrain myself until the paperback edition came out, fortified by memories of reading awful biogs of good writers in the past.

I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon, and waited expectantly for it to arrive, which it eventually did two weeks after the publication date. Not Amazons fault, but rather the local Royal Mail seem to be returning to pre-industrial work rhythms; somehow appropriate given the subject of the book.

Again I settled back, and started Semi-Invisible Man with some trepedation which turned out to be entirely unwarranted. Julian Evans captures Norman Lewis's singularly strange life marvelously, it is neither a hatchet job nor hagiography but a serious, sympathetic look at one of Britains best twentieth century writers.
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Format: Paperback
Five stars for illuminating the life of this very private man, and for the sympathetic understanding of him and his slightly unusual string of relationships and fatherhoods. I have to knock one star off for too much projection of the writer himself and his considerable "analysis" of his subject's mind set. As another reviewer so succinctly says, this editor badly needs editing. Nevertheless, a valuable and vital book which will bring Norman Lewis to many more people's attention. What a life! How many of us would endure what he did, for a story or a book? And love all the hardship? A beacon for all of us who want to enjoy life to the full as we age.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful By mickc on 1 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
For a Norman Lewis enthusiast his autobiographies provide as many questions as answers, and create an appetite for more information. Why did his parents send him to live in Carmarthen? What were the problems in his first marriage?etc.
To be fair, Julian Evans does provide a lot of answers. However, his style is so tedious and long winded that it wasn't worth the effort of finishing this biography for me.
Evans was one of Lewis's editors and this is definitely a case of doctor heal thyself. The book should be a third of the length. A decent editor would have told Evans to cut out the long quotes from Lewis's books, to stop the pompous speculation on the role of the biographer and to stick to the point.
He takes the view that, if he has gone to the trouble of interviewing someone, then he must include reports of their remarks, however tedious and irrelevant they are.
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