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Shelden's book about the last period of Mark Twain's life is one of the best books about Twain I've ever read. Incidents that are often reduced to summary sentences (like the burglary of Twain's home Stormfield) are here given full (and exciting) narrative treatment. The people surrounding Twain, usually treated as second-class citizens or even footnotes, emerge as living people: his surviving daughters, Clara and Jean; his secretary Isabel Lyon; his financial champion Henry Rogers; even the two men who break into Stormfield, only to flee in a hail of gunfire. (They were later caught and tried, and Twain testified at the trial.)
Shelden goes to great lengths to counter the image of Twain as a bitter and isolated old man. This was no King Lear, raging at the gods in broken grandeur. Yes, there were dark moments in Twain's writing, and they grew darker as he grew older, and Shelden takes it into account; but he also traces Twain's movements and interactions in great detail: and Twain was a man who, to the end of his life, was ALWAYS moving and interacting. Shelden also gains perspective by comparing some of these darker writings to similar attitudes expressed throughout Twain's life. The contrast isn't so much between Twain the young and happy humorist and Twain the old and bitter philosopher; it's between Twain the life-long bitter philosopher and Twain the convivial host, cat-lover, and incorrigible practical joker.
Andrew Garman's narration is excellent. I highly recommend the book.
My only regret is that one of the loveliest images in the published book didn't, and couldn't, make it into the audiobook. The book includes a photograph of Twain on Rogers' yacht -- he actually did a fair amount of sailing with Rogers in those last years -- teeth clamped down on a cigar, bowler hat on head, grinning like a monkey. Some misanthrope.
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What did you love best about Mark Twain: Man in White?
I've read much by and about Twain, but I laughed out loud at Twain's comments more with this book than any other about him--even think it's better than Mark Twain's autobiographies. Perhaps I could have appreciated them more if I had read Michaell Sheldon's book first, since this book provides the back stories for Twain's autobiography.
What did you like best about this story?
One of the liveliest biographies I've ever read. It's as if I know what Mark Twain was really was like after reading this. Hated to finish this book because I knew his death was coming, and I'd miss him like an old friend.
What does Andrew Garman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Writing and narration were perfect. Excellent pacing throughout, especially when reading Mark Twain's quotes. Will look for more books with this reader.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful