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Amanda Connolly

Throughout his life, J.R.R. Tolkien frequently spoke of his distaste for biographies as a means for better understanding a writer’s work. It’s ironic then that just such a work should provide eye-opening insight into the private world of one of the 20th century’s most prolific writers.

Humphrey Carpenter’s J.R.R. Tolkien is an intimate, meticulous account of Tolkien’s life and the people he surrounded himself with. Carpenter delves deep into the familial structure of the Tolkiens and his thorough research of Tolkien’s personal life is conveyed in an honest, relatable style. What could easily become a dense, epic saga of research and reflection is perfectly balanced with a strong dose of humanity and intimacy.

Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien spent the first three years of his life in the capital of the Orange Free State. During his early years there, a large baboon spider…

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