Let it be said up front – if you think this text is a biography of Tolkien you’re likely to leave disappointed. However, if you read this text for what it is, the tale of how Tolkien came to write The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, then you will find a great read, full of interesting tidbits and striking biographical connections between the life of Tolkien and the world he created.
Tolkien was my first encounter with the author Devin Brown though a quick Google search showed me this was not the author’s first foray into Tolkien, having already written a book titled The Christian World of the Hobbit. Further, it appears that he also teaches a class on Tolkien and CS Lewis at Asbury. His comfort in the world of Tolkien shines through this book as he makes connections that might otherwise be missed and speaks at times of Tolkien as if he knew him. I appreciated the knowledge and perceived comfort that Brown brought to this topic. It made the text very readable and easy to recommend to a wide audience.
I received a review copy of Tolkien, had it read, and reviewed it within a day. The book is under 200 pages and is a very quick read. For some this will be a point of frustration as certain aspects of Tolkien’s life that are covered in this book have the reader wanting to know more; Brown however stays on point using the skeletal biography given to serve as a means of better understanding of how the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings came to be. Reading this work left me wanting to know more about Tolkien, and for that I credit Brown.
After reading this book, I was left with a hope to read a biography about Tolkien and hope that Brown has one in the works. What I can say is that Brown did well to write a book that in topic alone could have easily been bogged down and esoteric and instead wrote an approachable text that this reader enjoyed immensely.
I struggle as a reviewer to know what tidbits to include from the text. The brevity of the work tempts me to tell the reader of this review to just purchase the text and read it themselves. There are fascinating peeks into each phase of Tolkien’s life from the tragedies of his childhood and the loving care of Father Francis, to his struggles as a student more interested in teaching himself ancient Finnish and other explorations of philology than studying for upcoming exams. Though the text is short, there is a lot to be gained from reading it. I find myself, though I read the works of Tolkien not long before, wanting to reopen them and take a journey through Middle Earth.
If you have read and loved Tolkien’s works like myself and so many others, than I recommend this text. It is well written and a great peek into the mind of a great author.