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This Boy's Life: A Memoir Paperback – 30 Jun 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Paperback, 30 Jun 1992
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; 1st Perennial Library Ed edition (30 Jun. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060972777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060972776
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,290,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

The author of three collections of stories, Tobias Wolff lives with his family near Stanford University, where he is the director of the creative writing program. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This Boy's Life is the memoir of a boy's, sometimes typical, sometimes unique, adolescence. The text is written sparingly, yet richly which makes it a powerful read. Wolff has created a world in which we see though the eyes of the youth in the trauma of his own childhood, growing up in a difficult family situation in America in the 1950s. Having watched the film version, staring Robert DeNiro, Ellen Barkin and Leonardo DiCaprio I found, although a great film, that it isn't as great as the book. A warm account from an excellent author. Read it.
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Format: Paperback
Tobias Wolff remained with his financially unsupported mother after his parents' divorce, stuck in the sticks at Concrete High School. Through an audacious act of forgery, he won acceptance to an exclusive prep school and Ivy League university. He subsequently became a university professor, and his book's articulate prose reflects his educational achievements. Especially memorable are his retelling of a friendship with an effeminate but pugnacious classmate and his account of finding a patron who purchased for him the new wardrobe necessary for hobnobbing with the upper classes who inhabit the east coast of America. As a published memoir writer, I can wholeheartedly recommend this work as a superior example of the genre.
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By A Customer on 30 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this yesterday, i read it in a day and a half. i love the way tobias wollf writes, he has a captivating matter of fact way of telling his story. unlike many autobiographies i found this one to be less of the "pity me" variety and more of the "this is who i am". he offers no apologies for his sometimes destructive behaviour and doesnt try to gloss over his actions by using hiw own life hardships as an excuse, I have alot of repsect for this writer as this book was truly a lesson....i think the overall message is ...it isnt where you've been...its where you are going that counts!
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Format: Paperback
Leaving Sarasota, Florida, in a run-down Nash Rambler in 1955, Toby Wolff, then ten, and his mother are looking forward to a new life in Utah. Not long after arriving, however, the two make a sudden, night-time departure for newer pastures in Seattle--the mother's abusive relationship in Utah having become intolerable. Later Toby and his mother gravitate to Chinook, a remote village in the Cascades. His mother marries a tough man who cruelly punishes Toby (who has changed his name to Jack in honor of Jack London) for infractions, sells some of Toby's treasured belongings, and tries to impose military discipline on him.

Wolff's story of his grim life from age ten through high school is a breath-taking recreation, filled with the sorts of longings that motivate sensitive young boys everywhere, but also filled with an a self-awareness that is rare in such autobiographies. Jack (Toby) is a rebel--a sometime kleptomaniac, thief, cheater, liar, and schoolboy miscreant who loves his mother, hates his stepfather (and generally tries to avoid him), and hangs out with similarly alienated, hell-raising schoolmates, who often "escape" through alcohol.

When his brother (who remained with his father), encourages Jack to apply as a scholarship student to an eastern boarding school, thereby escaping his stepfather, he is intrigued with the idea, though he has had few academic interests until then. The story of how Wolff manages to attend a prep school is a classic. (The fictionalized story of his boarding school life appears in his recent novel, Old School.
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2 Comments 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Tobias Wolff remained with his financially unsupported mother after his parents' divorce, stuck in the sticks at Concrete High School. Through an audacious act of forgery, he won acceptance to an exclusive prep school and Ivy League university. He subsequently became a university professor, and his book's articulate prose reflects his educational achievements. Especially memorable are his retelling of a friendship with an effeminate but pugnacious classmate and his account of finding a patron who purchased for him the new wardrobe necessary for hobnobbing with the upper classes who inhabit the east coast of America. As a published memoir writer, I can wholeheartedly recommend this work as a superior example of the genre.
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Format: Paperback
I loved this book and devoured it. You will know that feeling well, I hope. The delectable stories that define periods of your life. This was one such book.

I have browsed through some of the negative reviews of this text, and the criticisms contained within pertain to three points, which I shall attempt to redress here.

1. "I was set this book for my english high school course and it's rubbish"

Unfortunately, set-texts are often this way. At the end of the day, I fully appreciate how being forced to read a book that you have no interest in whatsoever may render the text lifeless, dull, and a chore. That said, most reading this review (perhaps to decide if 'This Boy's Life' is worth reading) will not be in this position; it is to those readers that I appeal to when addressing the criticisms that have been levied.

2. "The book has no feeling in it"

I concede that Tobias Wolff seems somewhat emotionless at times. His hollow style verges on numb. Yet this is just exactly what makes him interesting to read... he is honest about his experiences, his apparent nonchalance in the face of culpability, and his apparent detachment from certain others around him. Yet these qualities all make perfect, sound sense. Furthermore, I feel the same as he does, and respect him for speaking so frankly. His honesty slices away the prettiness that we all like to wear around our raw edges, and this makes Wolff's book actually worth reading.

3. "The book has no story or narrative, it's just this happened then that happened"

Again, this reviewer's point is justified - this is indeed Wolff's style, his story. Yet, again, I find no fault in this at all. Rather, I feel it is a strength, and supports the meaning within the story stoically.
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