Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949

Nikolai Tolstoy, Author W. W. Norton & Company $29.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-393-06130-7
As much a rebuttal as it is a biography, Tolstoy's biography of the twentieth century British novelist's life proves both unusually insightful and distractingly biased. The author's relationship to his subject is revealed up front: Tolstoy was O'Brian's stepson through a second marriage and a ""frequent correspondent with the reclusive author"" before his death in January 2000, an association that provides Tolstoy with a trove of untapped source material in the form of personal letters and family papers. More impressive, perhaps, is Tolstoy's encyclopedic knowledge of his stepfather's work, which he employs at almost every turn to demonstrate the largely autobiographical nature of O'Brian's fiction. Too often, though, Tolstoy's analysis resorts to speculation, and, given the writer's potential conflict of interest, such uncertainties are impossible to ignore. Hanging over Tolstoy's work from page one is a previous biography, Dean King's Patrick O'Brian: A Life, an unflattering and possibly flawed portrayal of the historical novelist that turns on his mid-century decision to walk out on his first family. Here, Tolstoy tries to set the record straight by providing a more nuanced view of his stepfather's choices and eccentricities. Unfortunately, each moment of clarification is accompanied by a moment in which Tolstoy, routinely name-checking King's biography, falls into the role of an apologist. The tragedy is that O'Brian is a fascinating subject because of his faults, shortcomings and quirks, not in spite of them, as Tolstoy would seem to believe.
Reviewed on: 09/01/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Show other formats
FORMATS
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-09-941584-8
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.