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BookTuesday: Tolkien

Continuing September's BookTuesday on Thursday, today we're taking a look at another biography in Thomas Nelson Publisher's Christian Encounters Series: J.R.R. Tolkien. Here's the cover with Amazon link:

J.R.R. Tolkien (Christian Encounters Series)

The Christian Encounters Series is a collection of short introductory biographies covering people of literary and historic importance. Other books highlight George Washington Carver, Winston Churchill, and John Bunyan. These books are available in paperback and e-book. My copy of Tolkien is an e-book. While that seems paradoxical, since Tolkien's writing often pushed against technology, it's what I've got. Better an e-book than no book at all!

However, the text should be the same whether you want to hold Mark Horne's work in your hands or on your Kindle. And this is a short review, not a debate on the merits or demerits of digital books.

Horne is not a famous author, and I'm not sure if this series is assigned out by an editor or if Horne wanted to write about Tolkien. This book is his view on the life of Tolkien. It's a life that I knew precious little about prior to reading, as his biography in my mind has been "part of The Inklings and author of The Lord of the Rings and related material."

This book attempts to flesh out those parts of the life of Tolkien while introducing the reader to more of his life. The author, wisely, starts with Tolkien's birth, childhood, and education. These happenings are handled quickly and without too much mundane detail. If the reader is not at least mildly familiar with English geography, this lack of detail will cause the occasional head-scratch of bewilderment. It does little good to know that the Tolkien family moved from Sarehole to Rednal if one can't quite place either locale. Perhaps I'm a little picky about this: I'm reading 2 other books that would be well-served by including a map!

Horne takes a moment to highlight the statistics of creative people who have lost a parent in his work, and I feared this would lead to a dry spell in the work. Fortunately, he does not present all of this information in one place, but breaks it up between the death of Tolkien's father and his mother's death. So, one sees tragedy and then statistics, but these statistics reinforce the point: these tragedies shaped Tolkien as tragedy has often shaped creative minds.

Tracing the childhood and adolescence of Tolkien, Horne shows how many of the ideas that came to be Middle-Earth were born. Tolkien experienced life in the country and the city, and clearly preferred the country. Moreover, he was able to see first-hand the ugly effects of industrialization and modern warfare in World War One.

The book covers Tolkien's romance with Edith Bratt, who appears to have been the only love of Tolkien's life (outside of writing). The work shares the struggles the two went through to get to the altar.

While the life details are present in this work, there is very little information regarding Tolkien's personal religious beliefs. He is shown as a Catholic, but as one whose church attendance was spotty at best. There is not a great deal of information regarding the impact of Tolkien's faith on his writing or his life.

This is a weakness of this book, but is common in a couple of the other Christian Encounters Series books. The individual being profiled is not famed for his faith or his theology, but rather for the other aspects of life. This book shows a Tolkien who was immensely private about his life in general, and that includes his faith. I am more pleased with the author not inventing information about his subject than I am saddened by the lack of details.

In all, I found this a good introduction to JRR Tolkien's life. There are likely some that better evaluate his literary career, but this is a nice overview.

Note: free book in exchange for the review. Check out BookSneeze with Thomas Nelson Publishers for further details.

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