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3.6 out of 5 stars14
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 15 August 2011
As a fan of Senna's from the early 80's, I have to say I found this book a good portrayal of his life, career and obssessively driven complex nature. I couldn't put it down as I read familiar facts/stories from new and varied sources. Mr Rubython and his team are obviously big fans of the man themselves and their enthusiasm for their subject shines through (though, by no means biased as Ayrton's flaws are also portrayed here).

So, why only 4 stars if it's so good? Like other reviewers, the repetition of some facts/stories got tiresome after a while. The over-dramatisation and elaboration in certain events weren't needed - Senna's story has enough true drama in it to fill the book (and then some!) no problem. The love story with Adriane however was completely OTT in slushiness (I felt nauseated at points) and some facts were at odds with what she had written in her own book about her time with Ayrton (not sure whether this was down to Adriane or the author!). The portrayal of his family trying to split them up was not truly presented and one point I will make in his familiy's defence since I felt this portrays them as controlling and meddling - Ayrton had fallen out with Adriane for 4/6 weeks or so prior to deciding to give it another go with her in Portugal because she had a) had glamour photo's taken which offended him, & b) she had allegedly been calling her ex from his house and apartment when he was gone (some an hour or so long). He did love her but this upset him (and his family) greatly. Thus his silence from her in the run up to Imola and why he never even called her on her birthday (it's in her own book, though she omits to elaborate fully!). So, He showed his family his itemised bills to ask their opinion and that's why they grew to distrust and dislike her so - they had welcomed her into their lives and home until then. A very private family, they were embarrassed by this and thought that Ayrton deserved more (thus Leonardo asking him to think about committing to her. He wasn't being machaevellian, just trying to look out for his Brother who was at that point vulnerable and at an unhappy place in his life because of what was going on in his career. Makes their treatment of her at the funeral more transparent and understandable don't you think? Yet, there is no mention of this in the book which I think portrays his Brother Leonardo in an unfair light (almost jealously leachy when this wasn't the case. They were just very, very close). Also, consider the fact that she was in a relationship with someone else only 9 months later - this from an interview from herself - Another millionaire - patterns! Again, not mentioned.). So, overtly pushing the rosy romance element IMHO ruined it some-what. He'd fallen in love with her, but she had hurt him. It wasn't a true portrayal (kind of like 'The News of The Worlds' version of their love affair, LoL!).

The emotive detailisation of his death and accident really got to me - keep the kleenex at hand (You'll need the box, not the packet and I'm not the weepy kind!). I had to reach for the malt after this part. The presentation of the possible causes/scenarios of what brought about the accident are really informative and detailed, but explicit and harrowing - but could it be put any other way? No, I don't think so (although a bit shorter might have been kinder!) as the whole weekend of Imola was harrowing and you can't change it. The explicit descriptions of his wounds could've been toned down (again, overt dramatisiation when it wasn't required), which I felt took away some of the magic which could've made this book really exceptional.

So, apart from that, and a few other minor errors this is a great read, a (mostly) decent and detailed portrayal (Just skip the accident analysis if you're of a sensitive disposition is all I'll say). As a fan, I'd give this the thumbs up. Ayrton, warts and all. Focused, Charming, ruthless, warm, kind, petulant, single-minded, generous, heroic, cold yet emotional, and the consummate driver who fought (and won) against a corrupt system on his own terms to become the biggeast icon in F1 that he was and continues to be.
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on 23 August 2004
Books on Aryton Senna have become something of a cottage industry, since his sad demise - all the more reason for them to do justice to someone, of whom Frank Williams said was "first and foremost an amazing human being and secondly, a great racing driver." So it's no mean task and this is quite an enjoyable read in places, but does not quite get there.
Firstly, there is little in the book that we did not already know about Senna and seems to collate a huge number of quotes already in the public domain from other books and press articles. Also, as other reviewers have commented, it is very repetitive and contradictory, with the same quotes surfacing on more than one occasion, which undermines enjoyment of the reading. To say the least, it seems as though the book has had little or no pre-publication proof reading.
Evidence of this is also to be found in the number of basic errors, which for a writer of Rubython's repute, must be embarrassing - for example, unless I was following a different formula, there were no Wiliams-Hondas in 1991 and Senna did not win at Monaco in 1983....a good eight months before he actually raced an F1 car, let alone started winning with one.
Secondly, for me at least, the most damning part of this book was the dismissive and contemptous attitude towards Alain Prost (in which the writer seems to dislike Prost more than Senna did). In this regard, I beleive the writer has completely missed the point. Firstly, no one would seriously beleive that Prost in terms of sheer skill (if not outright speed) was anything other than well-matched to Senna? One of the reasons they fell out was because they threatened each other's supremacy. To suggest that Senna's biggest rival was Nigel Mansell is ridiculous. By attempting to be-little Prost, the writer actually detracts from Senna - one of the things that made Senna so great was that he overcame the genius of Prost with sheer speed and will to win and raised the bar to an impossibly high level. Jo Ramirez's old quote even surfaced in the book when he said 'they only ever worried about each other,' meaning that the others never came close...but that's yet another contradiction.
One other aspect of the book, on which readers can only draw their own conclusions, was the candid and hellishly graphic description of the medical details of Senna's accident. I personally found it a little upsetting and others more sensitive than I, will be shocked. I wondered if we really needed all that detail, afterall, Sid Watkins, a key player in the unfolding horror, specifically said in his book, that he would not be going there. I had heard that Senna's family strongly objected to the book; if that's true, it's not difficult to see why.
Putting this to one side, it was not a bad holiday read on the whole, but I am ultimately disppointed, as it promised far more than it actually delivered. The only time we will get the definitive book on Senna is if someone such as Nigel Roebuck could download the collective memories of Ron Dennis, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, Jo Ramirez and Gerhard Berger. Now that would really be something.
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on 11 September 2004
The dust jacket blurb says "It is a story that has never been fully or properly told, and it is a story that needed to be told." Unfortunately, it still needs to be properly told. While not totally without interest, Rubython's book is deeply flawed thanks to very poor (or perhaps no) editing. Rubython has a clunky writing style and awkward sentences abound. Stories are told repeatedly as if he has forgotton what he's already written. The book also contains some factual errors that should have been caught before publication. More subjectively, the anti-Prost bias seems very evident and the book suffers for it. It's easy to get the impression that Prost was no match for Senna and that's obviously not true.
On the positive side, some of the stories are interesting if not particularly new and the human side of Senna comes through. There are some nice Keith Sutton photos though, again, probably nothing that we haven't seen before. I'm left with the impression that the author tried hard but wasn't quite up to the task, was hurried, and was let down by his publisher.
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on 16 July 2004
Released 10 year's after Senna's death, this huge biography is certainly well researched. It covers many aspects of Senna's life before, inside and outside Formula 1. As such, it is fascinating. If however you've read a few other Senna biographies, you won't find much new. Indeed the Life Of Senna feels like the ultimate distillation of everything previously written about the driver. The book would benefited from more rigorous editing. There is a great deal of repetition and duplication between chapters. If removed the book's occasional meandering nature would have been replaced with a feeling of pace - something more befitting of the book's subject. That said, I've enjoyed it greatly and would recommend The Life Of Senna to any fan.
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on 8 January 2006
Lithuania is right observing that the chapters seem to be written by different people. That is true in fact.
Tom Rubython was the publisher of the official F1 Magazine which existed from 2001 until 2003. During 2001 and 2002 each month articles were published on Ayrton Senna, written by various journalists. This book contains all these articles (but not the great pictures accompanying them in the magazine) but there is no mention of the people written them. Rubython takes credit for it, which is typical for the man.
In his short spell as publisher in F1 (he was coming from business magazines) Rubython was able to piss off a lot of people in F1 for revealing a lot of "behind-the-scenes" secrets. McLaren boss Ron Dennis shouted to him in Monaco 2001, after the magazine wrote an article on Newey-gate, "that he would hate him for the rest of his live" as Rubython revealed in his own column.
As the publishing date of this book has been delayed for years I gather someone like Dennis has delayed its approval for some time. Has it been worth the wait ? Not if you have all the issues of F1 Magazine...
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on 2 August 2004
Yes, this is a good book but it needed an editor, and someone who could write rather better: it is remarkably repetitive and some repetitions even contradict earlier versions of the same story or quote, as the author has 'got things mixed up' or simply gets a bit lost. For example the 'miserable' Toleman team is described as weak with just a few 'miserable fourth place finishes' for Derek Warwick (close repetition of 'miserable' is typical of the book's - lack of - style), before, a few pages later, becoming a great little team with excellent prospects, ideal for Senna's first year. The well known story of Senna and Ron Dennis flipping a coin over Senna's salary is another case in point - the second telling has it the wrong way round. The author would not make a good romantic novelist: the 'love story' chapter is almost embarrassingly poor. The book is also vehemently anti-Prost, no doubt reasonably so in parts, but it does seem a bit unbalanced. So, good in general, but it could have been so much better and, as the previous reviewer says, much pacier.
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on 3 November 2004
On the whole this is a rather good book, but far from great. As said before it is full of factural errors, and is very repetative as i tend to read one chapter a night and i often found myself checking whether or not i was reading the same one as the night before. I also dissliked the anti-Prost coments which made out that he was no match for Senna and was in fact little more than a Schumacher. So in summary if you want a load of raw data, oftern right about the life and death of Senna summed up into 650 pages then this is the one for you; but not for the person who knows their stuff allready and liked Prost.
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on 30 June 2005
When I read the last review...from Lithuania!!!! I had to go out and buy the book to see for myself how bad it was. I heard such great things about it from my family and freinds and was waiting for someone to give it to me for my birthday.
Lithuania may be right that it might not be the best book ever published about Ayrton Senna. The first and last chapters that deal with the last weekend of his life are simply brilliant - two of the best that I have ever read. the middle bit does go on a bit, it is possibly over detailed but you do not have to read it all. The chapter about the trial in Italy I counted was 18,000 words long. But in my opinion it is worth buying just for the description of his last weekend. It was very moving and brought tears to my eyes.
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on 20 January 2005
This is a cynical, bloated, amateurish piece of hackwork seemingly published to tie in with the tenth anniversary of Senna's death.
In attempting to be definitive, it merely becomes overlong and phenomenally boring. That the greatest Formula One driver of his era's life can be reduced to such banal prose is almost impossible to believe.
Rubython also makes no attempt at impartiality - whenever he discusses the great rivalry between Prost and Senna he does so in terms that denigrate the Frenchman. (He's little better on the relationships between Senna and any other driver, or official).
Rubython's writing never rises above the turgid, and his grasp of basic facts is shaky.
By far the best book on Senna is Richard Williams' elegiac "The Death of Ayrton Senna". Christopher Hilton's "The Hard Edge of Genius" is much a better book on Senna's early career and first couple of seasons in F1. Both books give far more insight into Senna the man, Senna the driver and Senna the phenomenon.
All that's left in here is a rather lip-smackingly grotesque obsession with the minutiae of Senna's death, and some rather over-sentimental material about his family life.
Difficult to recommend to anyone but the most uncritical Senna fan, this is merely tedious hagiography, full of unnecessary padding, written in the kind of pseudo-exciting journalistic prose that reduces a great driver to a collection of cliches.
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on 18 May 2004
I can't say that I liked Senna very much, but you had to admire the man for being arguably the greatest racing driver ever. This book has certainly shown me that there was more to him than the ruthlessness and apparent arrogance that the public saw. An excellent read for anybody who has even the slightest interest in Senna.
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