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Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  312 ratings  ·  30 reviews
More than seventy-five years after his death, the famed creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, remains one of the world's best-loved authors. This candid, never-before-published volume of letters sheds light on Conan Doyle's fascinating career, not only as an author but as a physician, sportsman, war correspondent and crusader for social justice. From his troubled ...more
Hardcover, 706 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Penguin Press HC
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Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
As someone who read the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes as a teenager, I was biased towards his creator even before picking up this rare book of Arthur Conan Doyle’s letters, primarily to his mother, over a 50 year period.

Doyle was a man of immense stamina, perseverance and self-absorption. Doctor, writer, playwright, cricketer, politician, war correspondent, lecturer, volunteer soldier, businessman, inventor, investor, philanthropist, country squire, spiritualist, and political advisor are
Megan (ChroniclesOfABookworm)
I will love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle forever for giving us Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson but must I say...his life was boring. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a biography sort of auto-biography (yes, these are letters from ACD himself). We may never know.
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mystery fans
Recommended to Olivia by: Diane Ream
I heard about this book on NPR, and was so excited! I'm somewhat of a ACD geek, and had heard that his letters were lost/hidden. I'd always longed to read them, but I thought I'd just be picking around and reading a few. Who wants to read a whole book of letters to his mother? Me, that's who! I haven't been able to put it down! There's so much people don't know about Doyle (he introduced skiing to Europe! He influenced Winston Churchill to enter politics! He could have been a professional cricke ...more
Luan Morina
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
it offered a great view on his life... the letters covered a few areas of his life and provided a sort of biography of his life... funny the fact how we can learn so more of someone's life on the letters they wrote... made me think if the same will be applied to our generation, what will others read, our emails? or facebook statuses?...

I had shorter edited version concentrating on key events and letters... liked it a lot...
Emily Savary
Sep 22, 2014 rated it liked it
A unusual and intimate look at the creator of Sherlock Holmes. I very much enjoyed learning more about Doyle's life through his own narrative, though I'm certain he never imagined the world would one day pour over his private letters. That in it's self makes them all the more intriguing.
Aug 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
3.5/4. I somehow came across this book an decided that I should buy it, though I’m still making my way threw his Sherlock story’s & only other book iv read by him is the lost world. also, a Sherlock collection written by his son.
the introduction- on the one hand I say you can skip it but on the other there is a couple things in there that you may get something out of, as I did. it was very detailed in a way I wasn’t expecting, which fell flat, filler more then much detail to it in itself.
the s
Ryan Ward
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
What an intriguing human being! Who would have thought that an author best known for short mystery stories would be so active in the government, religion, and war. I had two problems with this book:

1. The device of learning about a person through their own letters is cute, but not a very cohesive way to tell a story. Too much repetition and unnecessary details. I enjoyed the paragraphs between the letters more than the letters.

2. I expected there to be more interaction between this biography and
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
An epistolary look into the life of Arthur Conan Doyle, with most of the letters being from him to his mother. Some others appear, such as those written to some of his siblings, other doctors, and some from his son Kingsley during WWI.

Overall, it was very informative and entertaining but, since a majority of the letters were to his mother, some of the letters were very similar to each other. As a result, the pacing was uneven. While some portions of the book were very engaging, others dragged a
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
It was very interesting to learn more about personality and values of Conan Doyle. I found it funny that he didn't much like Sherlock being his most popular work, and I've found some other books I want to read by him. An insightful work of his life in letters to his mother.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very informative though one has to sift through a lot of irrelavant material if one is looking for something more specific.
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of ACD, Sherlock Holmes, etc
Recommended to Samdenney by: -
A Life in Letters is a weighty book. At times completely riveting, at others utterly boring, it almost exclusively contains letters written by Doyle to his mother over a period of 50 years. Insight is provided into all of the chapters of a truly unique life, from schoolboy to Spiritualist missionary via doctor, whaler, author, war correspondent, sportsman, army volunteer, politician, businessman, husband and father. The title of the book could not be more apt. Conan Doyle truly lived his life; w ...more
Norton Stone
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put it down. There is something voyeuristic about reading someone's private letters. I would go so far to say better than biography; this is the man by his own hand without reflection. What a magnificent life and such ability showing at an early age, clearly a genius. The compilers have worked very hard to give the book as close to a narrative thread as is possible with letters. The book is 686 pages and I was only felt let down by the last 50 pages where we dwelt on Conan Doyle's spi ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
The book is fascinating because one can trace how a child (with simplistic grammar, spelling errors, and naïveté) evolved into a youth, and then into a grown man. There one can see very human moments which help one perceive ACD not only as a literary figure, but as a living being who liked to have fun and could do silly things.

There are many behind-the-scenes aspects of writing Holmes stories, like an amazing piece of information that Jean Leckie [ACD’s second wife, but at the time his sweethear
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! I usually don't care for biographies, but this is no typical biography. It's a collection of Conan Doyle's letters from the time he was 8 years old in boarding school until a decade before his death. As readers, we learn about his life, in his own voice and through his own perceptions. We follow him through his years at school, his struggle to establish a medical practice, his early attempts as a short story writer, his success with Sherlock Holmes, his secret (but apparently ch ...more
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-bio
I really enjoyed learning more about Arthur Conan Doyle through his own words via letters to his family (mostly his mother) and his friends. Even the smallest things that he wrote about help give the modern day reader an idea of what life was like during that time period. The authors who compiled the letters did a pretty good job of filling the reader in on what was likely going on during the time periods where there were no letters (mother may have been visiting Doyle - so no letters between th ...more
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Only read some here and there. Very thorough. Found a new author to explore--Geo. Meredith. Arthur and Oscar Wilde got along alright the few times they met.

"Of all his novels, it (The White Company) gave him the most pleasure. He declared at the end of his life:

I was young and full of the first joy of life and action, and I think I got some of it into my pages. When I worte the last line, I remember that I cried: 'Well, I'll never beat that,' and threw the inky pen at the opposite wall, which w
Lucinda Dreadnought
I registered a book at!
Jan 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

I enjoyed the letters that gave me an insite into Conan Doyle's life and thoughts, but found a great many of the letters to be accounts of the money he either owed or made or sent to his mother. The fact that he wrote to his mother for over 50 years and had such a good relationship was very telling of what a thoughtful son he was! This was even after they had very diferrent ideas of religion, formal and spirtitful.
Cooper Renner
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
ACD is almost as interesting as his most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes. His personality comes through loud and clear in this selection of his letters: immensely self-assured and -confident, but also determined, open-minded, insistent on justice and fairness, and able to see his own flaws. Read this in conjunction with Julian Barnes's novel Arthur and George.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
I nodded off as he was talking about money with his mother...again.

I did love his non-Holmes short stories - The Supernatural Tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is wonderful.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: biograhpy
This was like reading someone's mail. It gave incredible insight into this complicated man and his daily affairs and feelings. The biggest thing about this was I realized how we no longer communicate in this indepth fashion. Shame on us.
Miss Lemon
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, didn't finish this whole book ---- It is wonderful, all the letters Arthur Doyle EVER WROTE! But it's a lot to chew on at I'm putting it on the shelf for awhile and will pick it back and keeping going when I'm in the mood for detail!
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
life through letters. the annotations helped and didnt drag it down. not riveting but interesting full of current issues
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, favourites
An epistolary insight into the life of Britain's foremost mystery storyteller; this compilation is comprehensive and charming.
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Carey
I didn't know that Jon L. Lellenber is the representative of Conan Doyle Estate Ltd, successor to the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, just found his biography.
Vincent O'Neil
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great resource of what was going on in the mind of one of my favorite authors. Made me want to read more of his writings!! (Which I am now doing.)
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting depiction of a fascinating life. Well annotated, makes me want to know more about such an active literary and political personality.
Crystal Alcantar
rated it it was amazing
Dec 30, 2014
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