A.A. MILNE: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh by Ann Thwaite

A.A. MILNE: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A long, probing biography of Milne (1882-1956), who probably would have resented being known as the ""man behind Winnie-the-Pooh,"" having written enough novels, essays, poems, plays, and humorous sketches for adults and children to fill a 544-page bibliography. Personally, Milne was reticent, reclusive, loyal, and decent. Raised by a good-natured schoolmaster father, he enjoyed a childhood of freedom and adventure that he later captured in the tales he wrote for his son. Blessed with good looks, good health, and a good education, Milne became--as assistant editor of Punch--""absurd twice a week,"" and, overcoming his pacifism, served on the battlefields of France in WW I, returning to become a prolific playwright whose talent, as he called it, for ""making something out of nothing"" suited the intellectually impoverished postwar theater. In the meantime, his wife, Daphne--eccentric, frivolous, talkative--wrote his letters, laughed at his jokes, decorated his homes, planted his gardens, inspired much of his writing, and bore his son, Christopher Robin, whom Milne considered to be his ""best creation."" Although it is as a whimsical children's writer that he least wanted to be known, his tales of Tigger, Pooh, and Eeyore helped to rescue children's literature from the excesses of supernatural cuteness exemplified in the books of his friend J.M. Barrie. Biographer Thwaite (Edmund Gosse, 1984) seems intent on finding ""dark episodes"" in Milne: unlike anyone who actually knew her, the author seems to dislike wife Daphne, denigrates the marriage, overreacts to a brief and unproven infidelity, and laments Christopher's ""exploited"" childhood, although in his own memoirs Christopher expresses no such grievances. Aside from this symptom-hunting, Thwaite admirably evokes the period, style, and personality of a man whom Milne himself called ""an ordinary idealistic Englishman.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1990
Publisher: Random House