Posted by: jmark | December 19, 2014

Book Review – Tolkien – How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century

Tolkien – How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century
Devin Brown

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How did The Hobbit ever come to be published—not simply, what’s the story behind it; but how was Tolkien even alive, surviving a poisonous spider bite, surviving WW1, how did the story never intended for publication end up being scrutinised by the 10 year-old son of a publisher on whose word hung the existence of the book?

The whole story of Tolkien and The Hobbit, and subsequently The Lord of the Rings is a series of unexpected adventures. Devin Brown in this delightfully easily read biography straddles both the biography of Tolkien and the biography of the Middle earth sagas without getting lost along the way.

Some may say that the book is neither one nor the other, neither a full-on biography of Tolkien, nor a detailed account of the books he wrote, but I felt it sat very nicely in the middle, giving a great insight into both worlds without losing the wood for the trees.

The book is packed with fascinating details and insights that give the reader a sense of wonder that the book ever made it to print at all, and a sense of wonder at the vast complexity of the world Tolkien had already invented before pen ever got to paper.

You get to meet Tolkien himself, learning of the tragic death of his father, the heroic spirit of his mother bringing up two young boys, his lack of application to study, his pursuit of love, his home in Sarehole, his experiences in World War 1—all of which Brown shows their impact on the eventual storyline of the Hobbit.

His love of languages, his various professorships, his friendship with CS Lewis, and Lewis’ encouragement to write and publish the Hobbit are all covered, as is the whole other saga of The Lord of the Rings—a story which simply grew and grew, seeming to take wings and live under Tolkien’s pen.

Devin Brown closes the book with a brief tour guide of places in England for Tolkien fans to visit to get glimpses of the backdrop of Tolkien’s life and of Middle Earth.

This book was a delight to read—demonstrating in itself that the life of the author, and the life of The Hobbit both were something of an unexpected adventure.

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