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Patrick O’Brian: A Very Private Life Reviews

Patrick O’Brian: A Very Private Life by Nikolai Tolstoy

Patrick O'Brian: A Very Private Life

Nikolai Tolstoy

Score pending

1 review

Imprint: William Collins
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 31 Oct 2019
ISBN: 9780008350598

An intimate portrait of the reclusive and brilliant author, written by his step-son Nikolai Tolstoy.

2 stars out of 5
Justin Marozzi
6 Oct 2019

"Try as he might to redeem O’Brian, Tolstoy tends only to make matters worse"

It is one thing to seek to redress the balance. It is quite another to subject the reader to a barrage of repetitive justification. Tolstoy takes numerous swipes at the “frenzied accusations” and “embittered rancour” of O’Brian’s detractors, and “a vociferous ill-natured segment of the London press and would-be literati”... Try as he might to redeem O’Brian, Tolstoy tends only to make matters worse. The cash-strapped stepfather toiling on his manuscripts with his steadfast wife Mary is irascible, obsessively secretive, depressive, harsh, hypersensitive, snobbish, child-hating and chippy... By the end of this long-winded, minutiae-filled apologia, instead of setting the O’Brian reputation gently amidships, he has clumsily holed it below the waterline.

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