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How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer Paperback – 6 Jan 2011
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"With this splendidly conceived and exquisitely written double biography - of both Montaigne the man and Montaigne the book - Sarah Bakewell should persuade another generation to fall in love with Montaigne" (Sunday Times)
"How to live is a superb, spirited introduction to the master, and should have its readers rushing straight to the essays themselves" (Adam Thorpe Guardian)
"Sarah Bakewell has written a marvellously confident and clear introduction to Montaigne...a rare achievement. Sarah Bakewell deserves congratulations for opening Montaigne to new readers so very appealingly" (Evening Standard)
"Illuminating and humane book... It's rare to come across a biographer who remains so deliciously fond of her subject... How to Live will delight and illuminate" (Independent)
"Bakewell writes with verve. This is an intellectually lively treatment of a Renaissance giant and his world" (Daily Telegraph)
About the Author
Sarah Bakewell had a wandering childhood in Europe, Australia and England. After studying at the University of Essex, she was a curator of early printed books at the Wellcome Library before becoming a full-time writer, publishing her highly acclaimed biographies The Smart and The English Dane. She lives in London, where she teaches creative writing at City University and catalogues rare book collections for the National Trust.. www.sarahbakewell.com
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But there would be something almost perverse about offering the same treatment to the great French essayist Montaigne, given how his own writing looped and spiraled around, dodging the point when you most expected him to face it head-on, exploring tangents that shed new light on the main issue... and so Sarah Bakewell's 'Life', which takes the form of an ultra-literary self-help manual, is the perfect kind of biography for one of history's greatest, most unusual, deep thinkers.
Author of Surviving Schizophrenia, a memoir
As other reviewers have pointed out, Bakewell's approach is almost as unconventional as Montaigne's, but there is method and chronology in the way she has presented her findings and what comes across very clearly is her admiration for his work with an enthusiasm that is contagious.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has read any part of the Essays, and to anyone thinking of doing so as this would make a useful handbook and guide.
One minor criticism: I would have preferred captions for each picture rather than a list of illustrations at the end of the book which I had to keep flicking forward to in order to find out what I was looking at! Otherwise a witty, well-written and beautifully presented book, and one I was sorry to finish. I am sure I shall be re-reading it in the not-too-distant future.
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