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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal, illuminating view of Tolkien's life and writing
If you've loved Tolkien's books all your life, and wondered what kind of person it takes to come up with works of genius like The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, this book will be just what you wanted.
Carpenter makes illuminating connections, linking Tolkien's early fascination with languages to the fact that the author first studied languages...
Published on 28 May 2002 by Zeeshan Hasan

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3.0 out of 5 stars A good first biography
This biography was the first to appear after Tolkien's death. While it isn't (thankfully) a cut and paste rush job - Carpenter was given a great deal of help by the Tolkien family, who also co-operated with him on an edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's letters - it isn't the most thoughtful or analytical reflection on Tolkien's like and work, either. The author seems hesitant to...
Published 8 days ago by Camberwick Green is Puppets


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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal, illuminating view of Tolkien's life and writing, 28 May 2002
By 
Zeeshan Hasan (Dhaka, Bangladesh) - See all my reviews
If you've loved Tolkien's books all your life, and wondered what kind of person it takes to come up with works of genius like The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, this book will be just what you wanted.
Carpenter makes illuminating connections, linking Tolkien's early fascination with languages to the fact that the author first studied languages with his mother (who died while he was quite young). That nostalgic attachment to language led him to a lifetime of study of all sorts of Scandinavian and Germanic myths and epics, which ultimately inspired him to create his own mythology.
Carpenter also mentions that Leaf By Niggle, one of Tolkien's short stories, expressed his own bittersweet feelings about having spent most of his life writing the Silmarillion and Lord Of The Rings; especially given that advancing age made it increasingly unlikely that they would be finished in his lifetime. This was news to me, so I tracked down the story in a secondhand copy of The Tolkien Reader... it was really quite touching.
I'm planning to read The Letters Of J.R.R. Tolkien by Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien next. I'm pretty sure I won't be disappointed.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really great!, 17 Sep 2003
I haven't read all Tolkien byographies out there, but I have read some, and I think this is the best by far. Not only is it precise and somewhat more 'unbiased' than others (it's clear that the author deeply appreciates Tolkien and his works, but unlike others, he didn't turn the biography into a giant praise to JRRT's genius), but it's also entertaining and easy to read, something which can't be said of many biographies. If you want to know more about JRRT as a person and a scholar, and not just as the LotR author, you really should read this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 22 Nov 2011
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If you're into Tolkien, or any of his works and want to know a little more about the man, his life, and how he worked then this is the book to buy. It was written by someone who met Tolkien and spent a great deal of time with his family - so its not an account written by someone years after the events. There are insights into Tolkien's daily life, his inspirations, his professional life, in fact Humphrey Carpenter reveals snippets from every aspect of Tolkiens life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, But Ultimately Disappointing, 14 Nov 2014
By 
A.J.Bradley (Belper,Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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I have to confess, other than his essay on fairy stories, I have never been able to warm to Tolkien's writings. Nor those of C.S. Lewis. I have not been able to get past about page three of 'The Hobbit' - although I have learned to live with a framed poster for a 1987 exhibition at Oxford on my sitting-room wall for the past fourteen years. My wife is a fan.
To rewind: I first heard the opening paragraph of 'The Hobbit' read out loud by a trendy little drama teacher at school ("Call me Diane"), and I thought: "Hello, I'm not going to like this". Ian Fleming was more my thing at the time, you understand (1972?) Fast forward: college in the mid-80s and I am being taught English by Michael Tolkien's first wife (not Tolkien's son, his grandson), and we get an awful lot about the old chap. Before that, I'm afraid, I'd become aware that he was the favourite reading of hippies, druggies, tree-huggers, bunny-huggers; that spineless rabble.
Yet, I've become fascinated by the man; hence, wanting to read a decent biography. This is decent enough, but ultimately disappointing. Tolkien - aside from The Somme - appears to have lived in a kind of academic bubble. We find out that he didn't much like communists (hardly surprising) or Adolf Hitler (no surprises there, either) - but did he ever bother voting in a British General Election? What did he think of hunger marches, of the Spanish Civil War, of the atomic bomb? You'll have to guess, because you won't find the answers here.
He was not - thank heaven - one of those 30s Oxbridge lefties, like Auden - nor yet a homosexual like Isherwood (Orwell's 'pansy poets'?), but a quiet conservative who didn't even approve of railways much less motor vehicles. How he would have loathed the world of today, with its mindless consumption of TV and electronic entertainment! Perhaps - for those who are enchanted by the stuff - we need him more than ever. Oh, yes, I did catch a few moments of one of the films, before dropping off to sleep. Is C.S. Lewis worse? The films, I mean. At least it's not 'Harry Potter'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluble resourse for the Tolkien scholar., 29 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Humphrey Carpenter has excelled in the creation of this masterpiece of biography. The volume is slight enough not to be daunting, but contains amble detail for any fan. Carpenter's style is sublime, and he deals with potentially quiet dry facts in such a light-handed fashion as to turn the book into a story in its own right. The book reaches moments of splendour and is capable of inducing sadness and amusment. In short, this is a competitor for the best literary biography of all time.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A good first biography, 16 Dec 2014
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This biography was the first to appear after Tolkien's death. While it isn't (thankfully) a cut and paste rush job - Carpenter was given a great deal of help by the Tolkien family, who also co-operated with him on an edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's letters - it isn't the most thoughtful or analytical reflection on Tolkien's like and work, either. The author seems hesitant to praise, let alone fully analyse, Tolkien's work, and also reluctant (perhaps because of his closeness to the family) to give a warts and all portrait of Tolkien's family life. There are hints at marital discord and personal unhappiness, but basically the door marked family life is kept shut. So those keen to connect the writing with the man will have to look elsewhere - to John Garth's book on Tolkien and the Great War, for example; those wanting to examine more closely Tolkien's part in the literary and academic traditions he worked in should turn to Tom Shippey's book Author of the Century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and enlightening, 28 July 2010
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If I was interesting enough to have my own Biography, Humphrey Carpenter would be my choice to write it.

This is very much a warts 'n' all book, portraying JRRT as a man of great contradictions. Extra-Ordinary in many ways, ordinary in many others. A creative genius yet disorganised, constantly missing deadlines, finishing only a small percentage of his work, losing letters, stories and notes sometimes to find them years later and continue them at that point.

He also kept 2 copies of many stories for security but would invariably make different amendments to both copies making it even harder to reconcile works for publishing.

The ultimate perfectionist I am relieved we actually got any completed work from him yet the LOTR and the Silmarillion on their own are more than enough to show for a lifes work and if JRRT had not been so pedantic they would not have been the great works they are.

Very much a man's man, his complex relationship with C S Lewis is interesting as it develops over the years.

If you are after a window into the man behind the books then I would opt for this biography over any other.

An engaging read from start to finish, highly recommended!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fantastic..., 18 Jan 2004
By A Customer
This is one heck of a good read. The perfect formula-
this book + a comfy chair/sofa + the LOTR movie soundtrack + an hour or so to yourself= a very enjoyable hour!
I can't believe how well this book is written; my addiction to it almost mirrors that of my addiction to the classic trilogy. What I found incredibly refreshing, however, was how the author does not restrain from giving us the truth. So, for example, it doesn't give Tolkien a major ego boost (if one could do that to a person 31 years dead) but instead it gives him praise when it's due, and criticism when it's due, e.g. when it comes to his grades in his early education.
A great read, anyone who wants a deeper insight into the life of my favourite author should buy this immediately. Plus, Amazon did a great service of delivering this. Buy it from here, now!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Biography of the best AUTHOR IN THE WORLD!, 5 Mar 2005
Do you like Tolkien's books? Do you want to know about the life of this brilliant author? If yes than you must read this biography. This biography isn't boring even to those who haven't read The Lord of the Rings and want to know about this author. This Biography gives you a full account of Tolkien's books especially The Lord of the Rings. Thanks Mr Carpenter for this wonderful Biography.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An essential document which all specialists of the great english writer used for their own works, 7 July 2014
This review is from: J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (Paperback)
THE REFERENCE that every Tolkien's devotee should have whith her/him! An essential document which all specialists of the great english writer used for their own works!
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J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography
J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter (Paperback - 28 April 2011)
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