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A.A. Milne: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh Hardcover – August 22, 1990

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this overly detailed life of Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956), Thwaite ( Edmund Gosse ) chronicles the British writer's childhood, spent with devoted parents and his two older brothers; his schooling under his father, a progressive headmaster; the fame and frustrations that attended his early adulthood. The book includes quotes from the memoirs of Milne's son Christopher, H. G. Wells, P. G. Wodehouse and other contemporaries, both friends and critics. Milne was a successful playwright when, during the 1920s, he created the Pooh books, international bestsellers. Bitter over waning interest in his adult works, he resented the popularity of his tender, witty children's classics. Thwaite emphasizes Milne's touchiness, among other of his character traits, as she describes this uniquely gifted writer's changing relationships with family members. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The man behind Winnie-the-Pooh was a humorist, Punch editor, light versifier, and above all a playwright. Milne had a brief but very successful and prolific career as a dramatist before settling reluctantly for Pooh's glory. For this first Milne biography, Thwaite draws on both Milne's and his son Christopher Robin's memoirs, but also on unpublished letters and family memories, depicting his happy childhood, solidly middle-class background, ardent pacifism, and complex relations (obscured by an ingrained reticence) with his wife and son. Although the children's books play only a small (but central) role in this biography, their publishing history, reception, and critical evaluation are neatly summarized. There is just enough history to set Milne's work in its context. Sadly, Milne's charmed life eventually gave way to disappointment, but this even-tempered and readable biography will not disappoint.
-Patricia Dooley, Univ. of Washington Lib. Sch., Seattle
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 553 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (August 22, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394587243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394587240
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Wheeler on February 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It really is too bad that all the good books seem to be out of print. When I saw this one on sale, I knew I had to grab it -- good, bad or indifferent, a book of this size that would give me so much information on one of my favorite authors had to be mine.
Little did I know what a treasure trove I'd found. A.A. Milne had written an autobiography, of course (in which he kept much of himself "buttoned up", so to speak), and his son Christopher (Robin) Milne had added to that in his own autobiographical trilogy; but no one had done a definitive biography. Ann Thwaite got Christopher's permission to try, but Christopher himself felt he would be of little help; all the relevant information seemed to have been destroyed by his mother. Happily, that was far from the case; much had been sold to the University of Texas at Austin and Trinity College in England, and many other family members and acquaintances were able to assist.
The result of Ms. Thwaite's massive efforts is a very detailed, yet very readable biography of a complex man. If there is a great deal of background on Christopher and the Pooh Books along the way, so much the better; but Alan Alexander Milne was a highly regarded writer and editor for Punch and a highly successful playwright long before his short interlude as an author for children. Ironically, it was the Pooh Books that made his fame -- and added an unwelcome burden to his son's life. Yet his natural and acquired pacifism is no less evident in his adult writings, especially in his works pleading for the abolition of war.
If you are a lover of the Pooh Books and want to learn about the man behind them, this is the book to beg, borrow, or...well, maybe someone will permit you to photocopy it. Not I. ....
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When I started this book, I was amazed to find that much of A.A. Milne's correspondence in letters is actually kept in one of the libraries at the University of Texas in Austin, which isn't too far from me. I was initially planning on taking a trip over there to ask a librarian to see the letters, but this book is SO exhaustive, I don't really feel the need to see them anymore.

Despite its exhaustiveness, much about Milne remains unanswered. It's like the biography "His Excellency" of George Washington. While being a wonderul, lenghty, in-depth book, the biographical figure is just plain hard to pin down. Nobody can do it. But Mrs. Thwaite puts an unbelievable amount of effort into it, probably reading more to complete this work than I've read in my entire life. There's probably no greater expert you'll find on Pooh and his creator than this lady.

We see Milne's start as a child prodigy who cares only for his brother, follow him through his struggle to start a career after graduation, cheer as he gets lucky and lands his dream job, understand as he grows bored with his dream job and ventures into new fields, wonder how he manages to live through participation in a brutal war, marvel as he grows into a household name before even starting the Pooh books, smile in expectancy as we see his Pooh books outsell seemingly everything there is, grow weary with his thoroughly expressed political beliefs that seem so much less humorous than his writing, and sigh as he dies at the end of a writing career that has only declined since its long-ago peak.

I was inspired to read Ecclesiastes after reading this book. Milne's story really shows the vanity and ultimate unpredictability of the world.
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Once again, Ann Thwaite proves herself to be a very thorough and a very kind biographer. A.A. Milne was a sweet and talented man with a heart as big as all outdoors. He especially loved his son, Christopher Robin, so when the son began to show the chip on his shoulder I almost put the book away because it was very painful to read. I can only imagine the immense pain that Milne suffered, silently, for so many years. He was seemingly such a dear man, and his heartbreak must have been terrible, although he never really admitted it and he certainly wasn't the type to display any anger or any sort of disrespect toward his son.

The fact that the son resented the books and threw off the love of his parents and childhood friends does not in any way lessen the delight of the Pooh books, or any of Milne's other writings, especially the short verse from When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. The fact that Christopher Robin referred to himself as Billy Moon makes the books easier for me to read, and it's fine with me to think of all the characters in the books as made up by the author with no resemblance to anyone living or dead, as they say. Christopher Robin exists because A.A. Milne made him up, and there really is no one by the name of Billy Moon, anwyay.
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A thoroughly researched, comprehensive work;with information gleaned from a multitude of sources.You will be extremely knowledgeable on A.A.M. by the end of your read.
I would perhaps suggest that your eyes should not be as old as mine (Now They Are 60!)to read it comfortably,as (to get this much information in a book smaller than Eeyore's house) the text is written in a typeface size only big enough for the smallest of rabbit's friends and relations.
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