Goodbye Christopher Robin: A. A. Milne and the Making of Winnie-the-Pooh (英語) ペーパーバック – 2017/9/21
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Goodbye Christopher Robin: A.A. Milne and the Making of Winnie-the-Pooh is drawn from Ann Thwaite's acclaimed biography of A. A. Milne, one of the most successful English writers ever, and the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, and of Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and Christopher Robin.But the fictional Christopher Robin was based on Milne's own son. This heart-warming and touching book recounts the true story that inspired the film Goodbye Christopher Robin, directed by Simon Curtis and starring Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie and Kelly Macdonald, and offers the reader a glimpse into the relationship between Milne and the real-life Christopher Robin, whose toys inspired the magical world of the Hundred Acre Wood. Along with his mother Daphne and his nanny Olive, Christopher Robin and his family were swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales brought hope and comfort to an England ravaged by the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family?With a preface by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, co-writer of the screenplay.
Ann Thwaite is a Whitbread-Prize-winning biographer and children's writer. She was born in London, spent the war years in New Zealand and was educated at Queen Elizabeth's, Barnet, and St Hilda's College, Oxford. Ann has travelled extensively and has lived in Tokyo, Benghazi and Nashville, and is now settled in Norfolk with her husband, the poet Anthony Thwaite. Ann has written five major biographies. The first, of Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden, was published in 1974. Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape won the 1985 Duff Cooper Prize and was described by John Carey as `one of the finest literary biographies of our time.' Emily Tennyson: The Poet's Wife is widely regarded as the most interesting biography of Tennyson himself. Glimpses of the Wonderful, a life of Edmund's father, Philip Henry Gosse, was picked out by D. J. Taylor in the Independent as one of the `Ten Best Biographies ever'. A. A. Milne: His Life won the Whitbread Biography of the Year 1990, and The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, a scrapbook off-shoot of her Milne biography, was published in 1992. For many years, Ann wrote and reviewed children's books, as well as running a library for local children in her home. Her most recent book is a history of her own family called Passageways: The Story of a New Zealand Family. It was published in 2009. Ann is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature as well as an Honorary Fellow of Roehampton University (National Centre for Research into Children's Literature). She also has an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia and a D.Litt from Oxford.
A.A. Milne was a successful playwright and poet. His plays were amusing and well received by the public, if somewhat looked down on by the critics, and he earned enough from them to be able to live comfortably with his wife and child in a nice section of London. His aspirations of someday being taken more seriously by the literary establishment were never realized, because he found himself taken up by the world at large as an extremely popular children's author in the mid 1920s. The time was right for charming stories of whimsy and cuteness. People wanted to forget, and they wanted their children never to know,about the horrors of World War I. The Pooh stories were wildly popular and enormous best sellers on both sides of the Atlantic, and Milne and his son became unwitting celebrities.
This is an interesting story of celebrity and its consequences. It focuses primarily on Milne himself, though Christopher Robin naturally plays a major role as well. It was interesting to read of how father and son handled, usually successfully, the benefits and penalties of being so well known. I especially enjoyed reading about the large and appreciative audience the Pooh books attracted. Having grown up many years after the Pooh books were originally published I never found them to be especially appealing in my own childhood, and it is only as an adult that I have begun to understand the charm of these tales about a boy and his bear. Goodbye Christopher Robin helped open my eyes further, and I am grateful to Ann Thwaite for it.
From the title of the book and the cover art, I thought this book “Goodbye Christopher Robin A.A. Milne and the Making of Winnie-the-Pooh” would be a re-telling of the movie “Goodbye Christopher Robin.” It is not. It is a shortened/updated version of Ann Thwaite’s definitive 1990 Milne biography “A.A. Milne The Man Behind Winnie-The-Pooh.”
I have to admit with some embarrassment that when Thwaite’s original Milne biography came out 27 years ago---as much as I loved Pooh and Milne-- I had some difficulty getting through the book. She seemed to thoroughly cover every major writing of Milne’s, and at that point I’d only read a couple of non-Pooh works. I think she has read them and analyzed them all! Thwaite knows her subject so well she sprinkles in a lot of references to people or events with which I’m just unfamiliar. Perhaps the problem is I don’t know British culture very well, or the age gap between Thwaite and me.
The happy discovery in reading “Goodbye Christopher Robin” as an abridged and updated version of the original biography is that it is now much easier to fill in my knowledge gaps because of Google. Some references I had to google included: Meccano (a construction set created in Liverpool); seven-league boots (magic boots in European folklore that help a character gain speed); Michael Arlen and Gilbert Frankau (writers living in England with whom Milne apparently did not wish to socialize). If none of those references left you scratching your head, then maybe you can breeze through passages more easily than I.
While the movie “Goodbye Christopher Robin” focuses on how Milne’s attempts to deal with the aftermath of war inadvertently lead him to write the “Winnie-the-Pooh” books, and how the fame of those books affected his family, the book “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is more a chronicle of Milne’s writing life (though the focus is on the time Milne wrote the Pooh books and does not delve as deeply into other works as the larger biography). The reader will find out what projects Milne was working on when, how they were received, what he may have been thinking at the time as expressed in letters or published interviews. It seemed to be a quite privileged life: writing back and forth to other famous writers from the time, worrying from time-to-time about servants he employed from cooks to gardeners, etc, and writing to Christopher in boarding school. That his life was so privileged should not be a surprise, given the nannies and gardeners in Milne’s poetry. Perhaps the realization does make me adore him a little less, yet I’m still fascinated by all the environmental ingredients that led Milne to write the books I so love. Oh, and to imagine a writer’s life—to make one’s living contemplating deeply and then going on book tour and doing media interviews—certainly, is an attractive subject for exploration.
Some may think all the details in the book slow down the pace, but I rather like reading about the sales figures of the Pooh books, or that in a first edition Kanga was mistakenly gendered as a “he.”
As a history buff and a former newspaper reporter, I’m in awe over the immersive research Thwaite did to produce the original biography, and thus the shortened version, as well. She quotes extensively from letters Milne wrote to his brother Ken, and from reviews of Milne’s work, and--when appropriate---Milne’s and Christopher Robin Milne’s own writings. There’s no doubt about it, Thwaite knows more about Milne and the business of Pooh than anyone.
(When I watched the movie credits for “Goodbye Christopher Robin” I was filled with delectation (a vocabulary word I learned, p.245) to see that not only had Thwaite been a consultant on the movie—which, I think, did help the movie add some authenticity; she also made a cameo appearance in the pageant scene. I can’t wait to see the movie a third time so I can look for her in that scene!)
If you are a Pooh fanatic and want to know more about the rise in Pooh’s popularity, I’d recommend Thwaite’s “The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh.” If you want to know more about Milne, Thwaite’s shortened biography “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a good place to start. I enjoyed the book enough that I definitely want to go back and re-read the original “A.A. Milne: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh.”
Three cheers for Pooh, for Milne, and for Thwaite!