Thread: 'There and Back Again'
I haven't read, or even seen the book myself, but have seen a review after someone sent me a link (was it you?).
For those of you who are interested.....
Link Book Review
I'm afraid I didn't send the link. But thanks for posting it - I've found a few other good reviews since I first wrote as well!
You get a very strong sense of the English landscape and of why Tolkien loved England so much and what it was that he loved, ie, it's (lost) histories and myths. What Lyons does is visit, say, the Berkshire Downs, tell you what it's like to be there and - more importantly - explain the Tolkien connection, how Tolkien might have seen the area and how he used that in his writing. So the chapter on the Downs tells you about Tolkien's love of Mercia and Mercian literature, Viking burial mounds in the area, how Anglo-Saxon mythology used to be associated with features of the landscape before the Norman conquest, the various dragon-myths surrounding the White Horse, medieval festivals, King Arthur, etc, etc - all the time referring back to LotR and finding connections.
In one chapter, Lyons discovers a possible source for Tolkien's inspiration for hobbits and hobbit holes, which I hadn't heard before.
Not all the chapters are equally successful, but on the whole it's a fascinating look at one part of Tolkien's inspiration. You end up understanding how and why Tolkien felt so passionately about England and how he celebrates it in Middle Earth - there's a lot more connection than I thought (ie, if you'd asked me before, I'd have just said The Shire).
In a way, because Lyons oviously shares that passion and conveys it well, you feel a bit closer to Tolkien than you do with a lot of books about him.
This has turned into a review, so I'll stop.
Lyons' isn't really a biography, though it has some to contextualise the landscapes in Tolkien's life. It isn't really about literary sources either - cp Shippey - though again it draws on some of that to relate Tolkien's thinking and show how English history, myth, literature & landscape are (or can be) totally intertwined.
If you want a biography read Carpenter (or Garth for the formative WW1 and before years). If you're interested in Tolkien's English inspiration for Middle Earth and LotR, then read Lyons. I think I said before you get a really good sense of Tolkien's profound love for England. More so than anything else I've read.
Hope that helps
Food for thought, except burritoes cuz they make me poo