Booklist Gives New Thornton Wilder Biography Starred Review

May 24, 2012


The author admits to a "decade of close study of . . . primary sources" in preparation for her biography of distinguished American novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder. The result, fully displayed on every page of this definitive treatment, is a joyous presentation of detail that will introduce Wilder to readers for whom such works as the seminal play, Our Town, and the finely executed historical novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, are vague echoes from times long gone. However, those who have retained a distinct memory of and fondness for this great American writer still stand to gain a wealth of biographical information to add to their appreciation of his contribution to American letters. The reader soon settles into the author's graceful style, and any initial trepidation at facing so many pages melts as those pages are quickly consumed. Wilder grew up in a close family, all of whom remained so until death parted them. Thornton and his siblings were governed, even into adulthood, by a controlling father, who may seem an antiquated figure to contemporary readers. Family members were geographically scattered as the father worked internationally and the children attended schools across the country and abroad. Thornton recognized his early attraction to writing, and the ultimate reward of this big book is witnessing his fulfillment in that direction.

-- Brad Hooper
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Thornton Wilder: A Life
Niven, Penelope (Author)
Available Oct 2012

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