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on 28 April 2017
I'm not entirely sure whether this was time well spent or not. Sometimes the book made me stop and think; I was particularly taken with the idea of the tips and tricks that Montaigne practised to manage his own moods and emotions - sort of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy before its time. Some of the historical background is interesting, but you'd have to be an absolute Montaigne completist to want to read about critical reception down through the ages or the history of different translations. I think I'd have been better off reading the man himself. This was not unenjoyable but it often felt like the critical introduction that you get in the front of some editions, blown out far beyond the length it needed to be.
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on 16 October 2015
Giving a rating to this book says more about my taste (and expectations) than the quality of Sarah Bakewell's writing. It is a well researched and structured life of the C16th founder of the personal essay discipline; the author has built a deep and much cared-for picture of her subject, resulting in a somewhat academic tone. Yet for all the work, insight - and even the promise of its cover design - there's an absence of the humour and fluidity in Montaigne's work, best caught in his "I do not portray being; I portray passing." The categorization on the cover says Biography/Philosophy; 'How to Live' is first class in the former, rather missing the playful tone I was looking in the latter.
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on 17 August 2017
This book explains Montaigne in a discursive and comprehensive style that teaches much but fails to capture the mischievous and vivacious personality of the author
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on 28 December 2017
mind blowing for small minds.
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on 17 November 2017
Good read
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on 14 September 2014
good book my therapist told me to read
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 May 2017
I suspect that 2017 is going to be the year of Sarah Bakewell, as far as I am concerned. I was enchanted by her ‘At the Existentialist Café’ a couple of months ago, and found this book even more delightful: informative, insightful and immensely entertaining.

Michel de Montaigne lived in France during the sixteenth century and his collection of ‘Essays’ (a term that he coined) is one of the most important and enduring works of the late Renaissance. His life was spent in the pursuit of knowledge and a relentless quest to sate his boundless curiosity. Having been born into the nobility, his father sent him out to be fostered by a family of local peasants for the first two years of his life. Thereafter he was brought back to the family home, but his father insisted that the child be brought up as a natural speaker of Latin, employing a tutor to teach the infant from the onset of his attempts to talk. From his father he inherited a love of books, and a position of relative ease, though he embarked on a career in local government, eventually being appointed joint Mayor of Bordeaux. This was not a sinecure, and his administration required tactful navigation of a time when religious sectarianism was flaring out of control throughout France.

Montaigne’s ‘Essays’ defy definition incorporating elements of autobiography, political commentary and personal observation along with highly imaginative speculation about the nature and wonders of life. The ‘Essays’ were written over a considerable period spanning most of Montaigne’s life, and his position did not remain consistent. While nominally a Roman Catholic, many commentators have speculated whether he was actually an atheist; others suspect him of Protestant sympathies.

Sarah Bakewell’s book is equally hard to categorise. While essentially telling the story of Montaigne’s life, it also presents a high quality literary critique of the ‘Essays’, analyses the prevailing philosophical views of the time and offers an enthralling history of France in that troubled century. She also provides an extensive exegesis of the responses to Montaigne in the centuries following his death. It is, indeed, nothing less than a rhapsodic paean to Montaigne’s work, fired by Bakewell’s extensive knowledge and clearness fondness for the book. It is not, however, a hagiography, and she does not refrain from criticising some of the weaknesses that she identifies in Montaigne’s approach.

Like Montaigne himself, who has been feted for centuries as a surprisingly accessible writer, Bakewell has an appealing lightness of touch, and the book is a joy to read throughout.
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on 5 April 2017
What a good read! Sarah Bakewell is a master storyteller.
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on 18 March 2017
Great work!! Absolute Must
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on 30 May 2017
I am very pleased with my purchase and I thank you for an excellent service.
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