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Competent, comprehensive, but rather dull compared to the real diary
on 27 January 2010
Interesting in parts but so much less revealing than the diary itself, this biography is divided into sections covering issues or aspects of Pepys' life, which entails quite a bit of repetition as the war with Holland, the various mistresses, the financial and corporate life of London, etc., are re-rehearsed at concurrent stages of Pepys' career.
This could be tedious, but Tomalin is skilful and does her best to make the story resonate. Some set-pieces, such as the tribulations of Cromwell's reign and the Great Fire of London, come over well, but are no real substitute for Pepys' diary entries.
This book won the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year Prize - a tribute to Tomalin's scholarship married to a fair amount of populism, but it makes dutiful and formulaic reading. Competent, comprehensive, but rather dull.