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on 3 December 2017
Fascinating read thanks a lot
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on 26 April 2017
Very good book good value for money
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on 2 September 2017
fantastic book, clears many things after reading Pepy's diary. Worth of the price.
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on 7 March 2017
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on 10 June 2017
Great condition
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on 11 February 2003
Any biographer attempting to chronicle Pepys' life is instantly forced to deal with the tumultuous decade of the 1660s which Pepys described so wonderfully in his own diary. We feel we know Pepys - his interests, his passions, his vices - and the biographer must work around that framework. And yet the diary covers only a small part of a long, active life - the Pepys of 1669 is a long way from the Pepys of 1703; his greatest days still lay ahead, and his past is something he only alluded to occasionally.
Tomalin has managed to expand the Pepys we think we know - she makes the many facets of this complex man shine. Administrator, schemer, lover, hypochondriac, aesthete, musician, scholar, man-about-town. The often contradictory aspects of his character are brilliantly explained; the gap between the public face and private passions and beliefs.
This is essentially the story of one of the first "self made men" in the modern world - Pepys rises from relatively humble country stock to the fringes of power during and after the Restoration. Tomalin makes the political and historical background clear, explains Pepys' involvement with the key players and brings a lot of new light onto his brief imprisonment in the Tower and his return to public eminence. This is a readable, witty and compassionate biography of a complex and driven man - a wonderfully entertaining and insightful book.
Everyone who has ever enjoyed reading Pepys' diary should read this.
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on 13 October 2016
This is a brilliant biography of a man best known today for his diary with its frank coverage of his times and of his private life. But he was also a brilliant and hard-working naval administrator who rose from modest beginnings to senior office and managed to negotiate his way through the ticklish politics of much of the second half of the 17th century. Claire Tomalin brings out his weaknesses as well as his strengths - his lechery, his vindictiveness against those whom he believed to have slighted him or done him disservice. The biography is scholarly, but flows with the ease of a novel.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 December 2014
This is one of few books where I would endorse a cover quote. This really is a fabulously entertaining read. If there is perhaps a smidgen too much "he may have...", and similar authorly colouring of the subject, the author still does a fine job of bringing to life both the subject & his times. As for two bookmarks, with more than 70 pages of notes, much of which is not merely references, this is one of those volumes that you really do need two for - one for where you are, one for where the appropriate notes are! It's organised in three sections; before the diary, the diary years (which actually only covers some 9 years), and afterwards.

It's not too surprising that the diary years form almost half the book; around 180 pages, as compared with about 90 for each of the others. The first & last parts are arranged in roughly chronological order, whilst the middle is organised by topics such as The King, Work, etc, and goes from the beginning to the end of the diary in each chapter, more or less. This is a slight weakness, as the same quotes get re-used rather a lot (for instance, Pepys low opinion of Charles II, especially of his oratorical ability).

But that is a minor quibble. I used to work for the publisher so I picked up my (older) copy of this for practically nothing. Despite a fairly avid interest in history, the period from the Restoration through to the mid-19thC is one I'm not especially keen on. I might otherwise have passed this by & I'm jolly glad I didn't. It really is a very, very good read!
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VINE VOICEon 23 February 2004
I am not a big reader of books about history - I have a terrible memory and quickly forget dates and the names of Kings. Also, whilst I had heard of Samuel Pepys, I had no real idea of who he was nor any great desire to learn more about him. However, after reading Jim Naughtie's "The Rivals", a very good biography about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, I had decided that I should read more political biographies. And I chose Claire Tomalin's book on the back of a good review.
Well, I was very fortunate to have chanced upon the book. Ms Tomalin not only described Samuel Pepys, an extraordinary man from an extraordinary time, but brought him and his world to life.
Pepys was an upwardly mobile civil servant at the time of the English Civil War and the Restoration. He was corrupt, using his position as a Naval Administrator to make his fortune. He was also a serial womaniser, sometimes pressuring wives of trademen that required his favour to enter affairs with him. However, in spite of his obvious faults, he also was one of this country' best diarists, who illuminated a time crucial to the development of much of Western liberal democracy. He also reformed the Royal Navy, creating a professional body based on merit and not patronage.
Ms Tomalin wonderfully explains Pepys life. Never glossing over his darker side, she obviously loves the character, repeatedly calling him Sam. The book, arranged in themes and not chronologically, not only uses Pepys own Diary, but also other historical research, to lay out Pepy's whole life and time. And even with all this research, with copious notes for the more academically minded, the book reads easily - even for novices such as me. If my history lessons were this interesting, I may have remembered more.
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on 25 November 2017
Having read the full diaries, I was rather disappointed with Tomalin's portrayal of Pepys. Naturally it is heavily reliant on the diaries for material, and is fleshed out with Tomalin's own perspective on Pepy's behaviour and motivations. Unfortunately she applies 21st century morality to the world of the 17th century, which doesn't work very well - it just comes over as judgemental and carping. I feel as if the character portrayed is not the one that comes over from the diaries and letters. Pepys was humorous, fearlessly self-analytical, and fabulously human - something that doesn't come over in this book. I really enjoyed Tomalin's biography of Dickens, but better to read Arthur Bryant's entertaining biographies of Pepys. As a woman, I find Bryant rather misogynistic in his handling of the female characters (particularly Pepy's intelligent and feisty wife Elizabeth), but much more accurate when it comes to Sam himself.
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