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4.1 out of 5 stars14
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 6 January 2004
I had read and admired Andrew Lycett's previous biographies (of Ian Fleming and Rudyard Kipling), and so when I was in London recently I went to hear him lecture, and I picked up a copy of this book, knowing it might take months for a US publisher to pick it up. I suggest they move fast, because this book is absolutely brilliant.
Lycett understands and clarifies what seem to be the important components of Dylan Thomas's life - his "Welshness" (or not), his poetry, his relationships, particularly with Caitlin, his drinking, his sexual behavior (or not), and his response to America (and vice versa). And as with his previous masterworks, Lycett puts it all into its social and historical context. Even I - who has not, till now, been a great reader of poetry - found his analyses of the poetry highly seductive. And in so many ways Dylan Thomas comes across as a highly contemporary - and relevant - figure.
This book is beautifully and fluidly written, and it puts Andrew Lycett in the very top class of biographers.
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on 6 March 2004
I apologise for the flippant nature of my earlier review, realising now that it was not helpful. I can only plead that, in the excitement of reading, I felt moved to write something that one of his companions in Soho might have typed out, on the old Remington, late at night, after a chaotic evening in Dylan's presence.
The genius of Lycett's book, it seems to me, is that his research enables him to take us there, literally day by day, to follow an extraordinary life. Lycett also adds his own wry comments, never harsh but always illuminating, as though he, in fact, were one of that raucous, happy and sad crowd who knew they were experiencing a special, yet impossible being. Some of the stories about Dylan's behaviour keep me laughing out loud. The sadnesses move me to tears. And, above all, is the beauty of Dylan's words. My favourite poem in English, with plenty of runners up,(Donne especially, whom I think Dylan appreciated), has long been 'Fern Hill' and 'Under Milk Wood' can only grow upon one every time of reading, or, better still, listening. Lycett lets us know how these masterpieces came about. The photographs are also wonderfully revealing. Can you beat the one on the cover?
A further strength of Lycett's assessment is his placing Dylan in the contemporary and historical context of English poetry, something of which Dylan was very aware. Although, I hesitate at this point, because Dylan Thomas was not simply (?) a poet. Lycett shows how many talents he had in other fields, especially screen writing & broadcasting &, above all, his effect on others who were in his presence & who usually loved him.
As a family therapist myself, I also admire the way that Lycett has sought to reveal the influence upon Dylan of life at his parents' lovely address, over the years ... the teenaged Rimbaud.
We can all learn so much from this wonderful book.
' ... though I sang in my chains like the sea'.
David Irwin.
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on 3 January 2014
A thoughtful and well-researched biography, a good compliment to Paul Ferris's masterwork. He has details that were not in the Ferris book, but not the same depth of psychological insight.
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on 12 July 2013
An absorbing, detailed account of Dylan Thomas' background, life and relationships. Doesn't pull any punches as to what kind of character he was and how bad his behaviour could be, even to his wife and closest friends. Not many quotes from the work, but that's easily available to read elsewhere so there's no need. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to know about the life of this complex, flawed man.
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on 2 September 2009
I read this because by accident I went to the beautiful area of the Boathouse and decided to visit the house - Dylan having been a big poet in the 60's when I was at school. I had grown used to the idea that his poetry was passe and overblown but going through the exhibits it struck me agin how good some of it was, and what a strange thing his alcoholism was fluffed over...Reading this book was a revelation; richly researched with perhaps a bit too much detail on his contacts it brought home how far we are from the 50s and also what an amazing man he was in many ways. I'd have loved to have seen him recite live or perhaps even been in the pub when his acute way with words was at his best. One of the books I mulled over for days afterwards and now have an expression 'going for a Dylan' (beer) said in fondness actually..!
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on 20 November 2014
Really enjoyed this - a page turner, vivid descriptions, interesting insights into Dylan Thomas's poetry and clearly thoroughly researched. It's painful to read near the end and the author works hard not to judge too harshly but ultimately it's very sad.
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on 14 January 2015
A well researched and detailed overview of Thomas's life, that unfortunately depicts him as nothing more than a womanising drunk. However, it is interesting and although it doesn't touch too much on his poetry it offers a glimmer of an insight.
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on 24 October 2012
The latest of biographies about this great poet and playwright is a fulfilling read. There is always a new facet of Dylan's life and work to be found in this book. A stunning and entertaining read.
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on 11 November 2012
Here we have an excellent example of the sort of obsessive literary pedantry that the lives of certain "stellar" artists seems to attract.

The problem here is that Mr Lycett plainly has delved deeply into the perhaps rather treacherous waters of Thomas' life, and is hell bent on (a) demonstrating to the hapless reader that he has researched his subject in forensic detail and (b) that he's jolly well going to squeeze every last drop out of it.

And so the basic facts of Thomas' brief life are overshadowed by a welter of irrelevant trivia littering every page. It's what I term "landfill biography" - metaphorically seiving and sifting through the midden left behind to extract every last piece of information, however irrelevant, trite or pointless. We are treated to details of Thomas' parents' housing finances; who owned the bus company that took DT on a holiday; how many sheets of toilet paper he used on 5th June 1925. One of those may be an invention, of course...

Am I alone in finding this kind of anally-retentive nit-picking incredibly distracting and irritating? Perhaps I am. Anyway, I feel that this book could have been improved by some robust editing and the publisher "having a word" with the author - perhaps employing the theme of wearing one's learning lightly.

Anyway - back to the charity shop with this one.
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on 13 July 2014
Generally a good read
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