This is an odd book, which reads rather like an extended piece of fan-fiction. The author has already written a biography of JRR Tolkien, so what he attempts here is effectively a biography of the book group that Tolkien attended.
It follows a broadly chronological structure, which is logical but which leads to a certain amount of repetition where this overlaps with the sections following various individuals’ stories. More annoyingly, the style frequently resembles the transcript of one of those breathily enthusiastic documentary voice-overs, full of empty phrases and generic speculation. For example, Tolkien in 1963 ‘would inevitably have been experiencing the natural decline caused by aging’.
One of Duriez’s main interests here is the religious context of the writings, and I found these sections to be the most engaging, but I suspect that serious fans of the Inklings will find little new material to interest them.
MIRANDA THRELFALL-HOLMES is vicar of Belmont and Pittington in Durham, and a writer and historian