ok, spoiler alert, on the title.
When this book was offered on NetGalley, I requested it, because I live in a house of Tolkien lovers. On the scale of fans in my house, I am probably the least enthusiastic, having read only The Hobbit, and some of The Lord of the Rings. (Shhh, don’t tell them. In my house, you are required to read the book, if there is one, before seeing the movie, and I’ve seen all of the movies.) I read a good bit of it, anyway, and I did love The Hobbit, but truthfully, I got it for my husband to read. Sadly, he hasn’t gotten around to it yet, and, because I waited for him, it has been a long time since I got this copy.
Last weekend had one of those perfect, reading days — a confluence of unusual circumstances including no carpooling activities, a rainy, damp day, and plenty of time to disappear on the couch with a book. I was hardly expecting to be so engrossed in this, but I truly enjoyed it. Tolkien’s story is an amazing collection of “what ifs”, and serendipitous meetings, so many opportunities that could have been missed, so many reasons for it not to have gone the way it did. Brown tells Tolkien’s story with wit and intelligence, and gives the backstory for a man who went from complete obscurity into the author of the most beloved books of the century. Seriously, with such a tempting title, I should have known Devin Brown would deliver. I especially loved that even though Brown is also a C.S. Lewis scholar, and Tolkien and Lewis’ lives overlapped in friendship, Brown kept this story wholly about Tolkien. To be honest, if you were not familiar with Lewis’ work (I guess it’s possible, right, snob that I am) you might not even know he was a writer by this work — everything about their friendship in this is in support of Tolkien’s talent. Honestly, I loved everything about this book. I recommend this to Tolkien fans, and I recommended it to my daughter, who needed a biography for her eighth grade English class. She is a reader herself, and, as I said before, a fan, but this was even more compelling — a good story, well-told, and also, did I mention, not very long. Perfect for a Saturday afternoon on the couch right before an afternoon nap.