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James Lees-Milne: The Life by [Bloch, Michael]
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James Lees-Milne: The Life Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Length: 416 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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'His biography is disciplined, compact, elegant and tender, and equally illuminating, suggestive and commodius abouit all the compartmentalized little platoons that Lees-Milne served,' (Richard Davenport-Hines, Time Literary Supplement)

'This book is so well-written you can actually imagine what it's like to be duiaryist James Lees-Milne ... a brilliant insight into another world' (News of the World)

'Total candour and integrity. This is an absolutely model biography' (Country Life (A.N Wilson))

' Michael Bloch's admirable biography has nothing of déjà vu about it. He has done his old friend proud ' (The Literary Review (Jeremy Lewis))

'His vivid and sparkling biography...an accomplished and confident account...admirable,' (Mathew Dennison, The Herald)

'The writer's affection and understanding has resulted in a remarkable study, a striking three-dimensional portrait of a subversive, sensitive and endearing man. Naturally, Block has made good use of the diaries, but he has gone far beyond them, investigating the long periods when nothing was written as well as uncovering an intriguing and recurrent thread of fantasy...

James Lees-Milne:The Life is an exceptional biography: lively perceptive and well-written...The diaries will never be superseded, but this book is their essential companion',

(Mark Sanderson, Telegraph, Seven)

'Admirably crisp and comprehensive life of the Pepys of the twentieth century' (Sunday TIme CUlture, Our Choice)

'A frank and sympathetic portrait...9/10', (Anthony Looch, Edinburgh Evening News)

Full of sex, scandal and name-dropping, this biography does justice to James Lees-Milne' (Oliver Marre, The Observer)

'A frank and sympathetic portrait' (Western Mail/ East Anglian Daily News)

'Very funny indeed' (DJ Taylor, Independent on Sunday)

'If he does not sweep us up the whole length of the drive with his passionate intensity, he succeeds in dropping us off safely at the gates of a minor, but convincing, national treasure' (Nicholas Shakepeare, Telegraph Review)

'Funny, observant and revealing'

(David Sexxton, The Scotsman)

'Fascinating new biography' (Daily Mail)

'Bloch has produced the perfect compliment to Lees-Milne's books and fully justified his mentor's faith' (David Sexton, Evening Standard)

'Bloch...is a tactful, sensitive but not an indulgent biographer.' (Rosemary Hill, London Review of Books)

'This book presents a frank and sympathetic portrait' (Anthony Looch, Leicester Mercury)

"Michael Bloch has served his old friend well...a book every bit as well written and entertaining as the diaries" (Irish Times)

"Frank and sympathetic portrait of a complex, cultured and loveable man, whose fame grew as he aged" (Eastern Daily Press)

" A rich social history and a warm picture of a man particular to his time" (Country and Townhouse Magazine)

'Admirably judged; warm, but not hagiographical; sufficiently candid, and acutely revealing...the subject and the author are here perfectly matched' (The Observer)

'A unique insight into the workings of our charity in its early days... and more' (National Trust Magazine)

Book Description

The authorized biography of 'the greatest diarist of our times'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4718 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #285,172 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For fans of JLM, difficult to separate one's feelings about the biography as a literary work, and its subject. Bloch is a good writer, with flowing text, and had the advantage (or disadvantage) of being very well acquainted at a personal level with his subject. Despite this, it is not a hagiography, and after all, JLM himself was always ready to admit to his own failings. The biography is at it strongest and most interesting for the years up to the 1940s, where there is more original material; beyond that it is harder to avoid simply retreading the diaries, and Bloch is not totally successful in this. There might, perhaps, have been more assessment and views of others on JLM's work on conservation and its impact. I hope that the National Trust will be broad-minded enough to stock this book about its greatest servant, despite its earlier negativity.
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By T. Bently VINE VOICE on 18 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed reading this book but, as other reviewers have suggested, it does have a few faults.

In particular, Michael Bloch seems to run out of steam a little towards the end. Whereas the earlier part of the tome is enlivened by copious quotations from the diaries, there are few of these for Lees-Milne's later years. He also makes the claim (several times) that his subject led a 'subversive' life, without ever giving any evidence to support this view. Lees-Milne is more typically regarded as being an arch-conservative.

Bloch ends his biography with Milne's death, which seems a common-sense place to stop, but in fact leaves several loose ends. I found myself wondering what happened to their house (and Alvilde's garden) on the Badminton estate, who attended the funeral and why his papers are held at Yale University.

Also, the typeface in this paperback edition is quite faint and small. Readers wishing to go easy on their eyes may wish to invest in, or borrow, the hardback instead.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has been long awaited and it fills many gaps and answers questions the curious reader of the diaries may have been asking. Lees-Milne lived a varied life with what became a huge circle of acquaintances, many distinguished. His knowledge of architecture and talents as a writer of history are undoubted. His semi-secret bisexual life is here explored - he seems to have had many male lovers and his marriage to Alvilde was very odd. So the biography is certainly a good read. I still felt I did not know quite what made Lees-Milne tick, his ambitions,(why, for example, the fantasies about his background?). Bloch has written an excellent surface history but a definitive biography remains to be done.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is perhaps not surprising that Michael Bloch writes so authoritively about James Lees-Milne : apart from being a close friend for the last twenty years of his life he was his literary executor ! However, this has not prevented him from giving a fully unvarnished portrait of the man, such as he himself might have wished. In his own diaries he spared no-one, least of all himself.
Michael Bloch gets the balence right between J L-M's pioneering work with the National Trust, his writing and his private life. It's a biography that runs chronologically enough, therefore making it easy to follow, and every quotation is referenced in notes that run to some thirty pages; this apart from a full index of proper names.
After reading this biography one may reflect whether bisexuality is potentially more amusing than being merely either straight or gay ! Certainly there is much material here to feed such reflections, and that is in part why it makes such a fascinating read. Howsomever, J L-M was thoroughly upper middle-class in outlook, was miserable unless working extremely hard and had an intelligence, empathy and sense of humour that made him friends and opened doors everywhere. Although overall somewhat pessimistic in outlook, his judgements (in this reviewer's humble opinion) were rarely far from the mark. M B's account of his labour and loves must be the definitive work on this charming late developper.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this affectionate and well-written biography. Michael Bloch's life of James Lees-Milne is a welcome complement to - though not a substitute for - his old friend's splendid diaries.

Bloch covers much ground familiar to us from the Diaries, but he also fills in gaps and separates fact from fiction in Lees-Milne's accounts, for the diarist had a tremendous tendency to suborn other people's anecdotes and claim them for his own experience. In addition to painting the life of a fascinating individual, Bloch takes us on a well-researched tour of several lost worlds: those of the fading and eccentric upper classes of the war and immediate post war period; of Society converts to Roman Catholicism; of publishing and literary circles when they were still run by gentlemen; and of the openly secret and still illegal world of upper class and literary homosexuals.

Bloch expertly guides us though Lees-Milnes' "lower upper class" upbringing - he commonly implied it was grander - his non-distinguished education at Eton and Magdalen, Oxford, with a stint at "Miss Blakeney's School of Stenography for Young Ladies" in between, his difficult relationship with his philistine father who considered him to be a pansy ("I told him I am"), and his discovery, in a sense, of a surrogate father in his older lover, Harold Nicolson. It was partly through Nicolson that Lees-Milne landed his position in the fledgling and still clubby National Trust. His role as Country Houses Secretary was pivotal to his personal development and through it he made a major contribution to the conservation of England's heritage at a time when confiscatory taxation and other social policies threatened it with eradication.
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