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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Piercing and painful: the unhappy life of Ian Fleming
Andrew Lycett's superb biography is the story of a shallow man, disastrous husband and hopeless father. And yet, as Fleming lived his heavy drinking, self centred life in an upper crust mileu where his values were often accepted, and desirable work owed more to public school and family conections than merit, Lycett produces a sympathetic portrait. Fleming's mother was...
Published on 28 Dec 2010 by Broga

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive & Exhausting!
Having read John Pearson's biography some years ago, I thought I'd give Lycett's version a go and see how it differed.
It is certainly more detailed and less sycophantic. That said, it has an unclear narrative and often becomes a blur of names that have little interconnectivity and whom are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. This makes many...
Published 8 months ago by David Craggs


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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Piercing and painful: the unhappy life of Ian Fleming, 28 Dec 2010
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This review is from: Ian Fleming (Paperback)
Andrew Lycett's superb biography is the story of a shallow man, disastrous husband and hopeless father. And yet, as Fleming lived his heavy drinking, self centred life in an upper crust mileu where his values were often accepted, and desirable work owed more to public school and family conections than merit, Lycett produces a sympathetic portrait. Fleming's mother was never going to rear an emotionally mature man and placing him at Eton did nothing to ameliorate her destructive influence. He developed as an excellent writer and in his fantasy figure James Bond seems to have been invested with many of the qualities Fleming would have liked to posses himself. Reading the excruciating details of Fleming's inability to halt his slide to an early death - e.g.70 cigarettes a day and heavy drinking - is like watching a train crash in slow motion.

He loved facts, he admired and read great writers, he was passionate about the marine environment and he worked hard on his writing. He wanted fame and fortune but when it came the satisfaction was muted. In one way he never compromised: he lived his life on his own destructive terms to the end. This is a magnificent biography, the detail and sharp insights - often supplied by astute observers such as Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene - are stunning. And the portrait of Fleming, at the end, is sympathetic. He was a deeply flawed, chronically disatisfied man who sought happiness in a material world which alone could never provide it. But this same man produced James Bond who thrilled millions, allowed them for a time to escape their own mediocrity and melancholy, and Fleming himself acheived a celebrity on a par with his hero.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterly piecing together of a fascinating life., 6 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Ian Fleming (Paperback)
This is a wonderful example of what, to me, illuminating biography should be. Lycett has exhaustively picked over every kind of source - the man's work, those who knew him, their letters & comments, the media & added his own low-key, rarely judgemental assessment to make Fleming really alive in the mind's eye without ever having met him himself. It is also so much a book about relationships, warts and all. I especially appreciate the manner in which the reader is left, from such a wealth of information, to draw their own conclusions about the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive & Exhausting!, 14 Mar 2014
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David Craggs (CT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ian Fleming (Kindle Edition)
Having read John Pearson's biography some years ago, I thought I'd give Lycett's version a go and see how it differed.
It is certainly more detailed and less sycophantic. That said, it has an unclear narrative and often becomes a blur of names that have little interconnectivity and whom are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. This makes many passages boring and too much of the book is devoted to his pre 'Casino Royale' years and not enough to the development of his novels within the dynamic of the UK thriller market. Fleming virtually created a genre single handily and this is barely mentioned!
To it's credit, one feels that one is reading the naked truth and unfortunately Fleming emerges as a flawed genius who committed suicide through alcohol and tobacco addiction. Not a great life but a great literary legacy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many days in the life of Ian Fleming., 23 April 2014
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A bit of a struggle. Far too much detail. We can gather that Ian was a good bridge player. (Lost count of the times this was mentioned.

Everyone he seemed to know either had titles, and or, double barrelled names. They all appear to speak in French, Latin or German phrases, thus us plebs require the relevant translation dictionaries.

The stress is piled on as to how well connected his family was, enclosed in all the right circles, old Etonian's, pulling strings, absolutely litter the chapters. Good luck to Ian, that was his world; but Andrew Lycett overdoes the name dropping to the extent of confusion.

James Bond has many fans, courtesy of Ian Fleming and Ian Fleming has many fans, courtesy of James Bond. I cannot imagine that an autobiography would have been so lengthy and detailed as to create an area of boredom, that just wouldn't be him.

No offence Andrew.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb biography of a fascinating man, 5 Aug 2010
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Jeremy Duns (Mariehamn) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ian Fleming (Paperback)
This is a superb biography of Ian Fleming, and well worth reading if you're interested in him. It makes two substantial additions to the picture provided by John Pearson in his (also superb) biography published three decades earlier: it gives the story of Blanche Blackwell, Fleming's lover in later life; and provides a much deeper context for the success of James Bond that followed Fleming's death. Neither of these were in Pearson's book, the first I imagine for reasons of diplomacy, and the second because most of it hadn't happened yet. Lycett occasionally overdoses on the connections and backgrounds of very minor figures in Fleming's life, but then again he leaves few stones unturned. While the book is generally more sympathetic than Pearson's, he spares us no detail, even of Fleming's sexual preferences. Fleming was a much misunderstood man during his life, and remains an undervalued writer. The popular perception is that his novels were superficial fantasies, simple Boy's Own adventures. This book shows that they were deeply ingrained fantasies and rather complicated Boy's Own adventures. This book also gives a context to the times in which Fleming lived and to his achievement both in that time and beyond it. While no book could ever present the whole portrait of a writer, taken together with John Pearson's work, one feels that Lycett comes very close.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It might be a great book!, 11 May 2014
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It might be a great book but I will never know because the type is too small to read comfortably. Why oh why are publishers so careless with their product.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly dry and very academic in style, 28 Nov 2009
This review is from: Ian Fleming (Paperback)
I should start by saying I am a massive James Bond fan and have always been fascinated by Ian Fleming - you see the TV programmes and the newspaper articles describing him as a complicated man who based James Bond on himself.

This book certainly provides a very detailed and highly researched account of Fleming's life, and for that the author must be given credit. However, I found this ended up having a quite negative effect. The book is written in a very encyclopedic style - one that lacks any life and you feel it is written by your old English teacher. Yes, Fleming met many people throughout his life, but do we really to have incredibly in-depth analysis of each of these people? Then, we get reams of pages dedicated to exploring each and every one of these relationships with Fleming.

This results in a book with no flow, huge sentences and ultimately causing the reader to get completely lost. Chapters don't seem to follow each other and the book ended up becoming a maze. In the end, I decided to skip some chapters and ultimately could not finish the book. Which is a real shame.

If you're a student of Fleming history then this is certainly the book for you. If you are a James Bond fan and want to know a bit about Fleming and how he came to write about Bond, then this is definitely not the book for you. This is more of a text book than a good read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Packed with superfluous detail, 5 Jun 2013
This review is from: Ian Fleming (Kindle Edition)
I heard this author speak on a panel about James Bond at the Jaipur Literature festival 2013, bought the book to satisfy a life-long fascination since my surname is Bond, but ultimately I found this book too long by half. The research is thorough, that's for sure, but regrettably Andrew Lycett has bored the reader with a pedantic recollection of every recorded detail of Flemings life, down to dinner conversations, love letters and unnecessary digressions every time he came across a double-barreled name. Fleming's life was fascinating, worthy of a spy novel himself; a spoilt man of means whose womanising habits and jet setting life ultimately gifted the world this Bond character for which he became famous. Described by one women as `having the emotional maturity of a child' Fleming comes across as a dabbler who thrived best as a member of the British intelligence services in WWII, and later had a knack for thrillers, if a little far fetched. The book does reveal the privileged life in post Victorian Britain that Fleming and his friends (Evelyn Waugh, Noel Coward etc) lived. However this book does little to investigate his literary ideals, nor discuss his writing style, and could have saved space by ditching the minute details of his personal and social life to follow up on the impact of the Bond legacy after his untimely death at 54. It does give some background into the decade long struggle to get movies made of the books but you find yourself skipping over whole paragraphs that seem superfluous. The creator of Bond had a remarkable life that is an intriguing story worth telling and this author unearths every last anecdote. But Fleming's book were never longer than they should have been, they were pacey and he had the correct journalistic training to only include that which advances the story. Subsequent Bond `mimic' authors have got it right but Lycett perhaps missed the point.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Boring bits, 23 Dec 2013
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Think that really Ian Fleming wasn't that interesting, James Bond was his aspirational alter ego.

He didn't so much die but faded away!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very well-researched and thorough biography, giving a well-rounded ..., 10 Nov 2014
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A very well-researched and thorough biography, giving a well-rounded picture of its subject. There is perhaps a tendency to information overload at times - difficult for any biographer to avoid!
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