Review: ‘Tolkien’ by Devin Brown


Abingdon Press
21st October 2014


J.R.R. Tolkien transformed his love for arcane linguistic studies into a fantastic world of Middle Earth, a world filled with characters that readers the world over have loved and learned from for generations

Devin Brown focuses on the story behind how Tolkien become one of the best known writers in the history of literature, a tale as fascinating and as inspiring as any of the fictional ones he would go on to write. Weaving in the major aspects of the author’s life, career, and faith, Brown shares how Tolkien’s beloved works came to be written.

With a third follow-up film and the book’s release the same month, there’s a large interest in the faith values for these works. This book addresses that deep hunger to know what fuels  the world and worldview of The Hobbit’s celebrated author, Tolkien.

My review

I may have mentioned before how much I enjoy The Lord of The Rings, and find J.R.R. Tolkien’s life and work inspirational, so it won’t surprise people that I was quite interested in reading this book when I saw it available on Netgalley.


My collection, or part of it anyway

I was dissatisfied with this book; it is a shallow, cynical attempt to cash in on the popularity of The Hobbit films, with no original research. There is only a token effort to fulfil its brief to show how Tolkien’s faith influenced his writing, and a barebones description of Tolkien’s life. The author only briefly mentions, and that dismissively, and qualms Edith Tolkien may have had about her own conversion to Catholicism, or any conflicting evidence.

The book is clearly written by an American for an American audience, with no universal appeal. Now this wouldn’t normally be a problem for me, but there were several factual inaccuracies regarding the British Army, the education system in the UK and English geography. If you are claiming to be an expert in the works of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and to have presented at conferences in the UK as well as the US, then you should be able to state precisely which battalion of the Lancashire Fusilliers Tolkien served in and you should be know that nobody studies for O Levels anymore.

The author provides no cultural context for Tolkien’s life, nor faith. I think the lens of religious belief would be an interesting one through which to examine Tolkien’s work and could possibly be quite productive but there is precious little analysis or context in this book.

If you are looking for a basic biography of Tolkien then this book might be  a place to start, but it is only a start. The book has a list of resources, start there and work outwards.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s