Mr Bliss by J R R Tolkien

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Mr Bliss by J R R Tolkien

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A must-buy for Tolkien collectors, and a charming whimsy for all.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: September 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0007436194

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If you wanted to produce a classic of children's literature, it would probably look a lot like this. It would be written by a famous name as a private exercise for their children, with the author's own illustrations. It would feature a title character, with a typical Edwardian headstrong attitude, yet with an ability to create slapstick. It may well have fairytale characters as you've never seen them before. And it would be presented in a deluxe, pristine heritage edition such as this.

Mr Brisk buys a car and, after a couple of crashes, gains more passengers than he was expecting. Twenty five minutes later it's over - he's been hijacked, flown through the air, inspired a marriage, and needed the help of several pack animals.

It's quite a slight piece, but no poorer for that. Certainly it reads with more jollity than Lord of the Rings. There's a whimsy you only get with stories of this derivation and age. The pictures add to that, with at times a polished, fine line, and others a rough and ready penciling. even adds a bit of post-modernism, enriching his text and vice versa by writing about his designs within the plot.

So, to the prestige quality of this version. The first seventy-odd pages are the typeset story with illustrations as a modern designer would produce it. It's brilliant. But start from the back, flipped to landscape, and you see the original manuscript reproduced, alongside a printed version. It's been seen like that before - not in Tolkien's lifetime, though, and not in my awareness before now. The fact you get both of these formats makes this definitive, scholarly - but let's not forget a definitive version of a lost, fun novelty by a much-loved author. Indispensable.

Once upon a time this could have been the first book Tolkien published after The Hobbit. You can revisit more children's classics with the like of Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus making it most worthwhile.

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