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Publisher's Summary

Samuel Pepys kept a diary in which he wrote with astonishing candour about the life he saw around him in London in the 1660s, and about his private desires and ambitions. The diary was kept for fewer than 10 years of his long life: Claire Tomalin tells the whole story of the Fleet Street tailor's son who made himself rich and powerful, an MP and adviser to royalty. She also traces his relations with many women, from countesses to servant girls, in a biography that is funny, moving, and as candid as Pepys himself.
©2002 Claire Tomalin (P)2002 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Tomalin not only brings him back to vibrant life, but makes a powerful case that he's more central, more 'relevant' than we ever imagined....She has restored to us the whole Pepys." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Our greatest diarist, analyzed by one of our greatest biographers. Tomalin's flawless research and trademark empathy with her subjects should make this portrait of one of the most fascinating characters of 17th-century England the best biography of the autumn." (Sunday Times [London]) "Tomalin writes brilliant chapters on all aspects of Pepys's life, relying not only on the diary but also on impressive scholarship....For those who have already enjoyed the diary, Tomalin's learned and entertaining work admirably fills in the gaps." (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Samuel Pepys

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Absolutely fascinating

This is a good read for both those new to Pepys and Pepysian scholars alike. An entertaining, fascinating read.

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Meet Pepys the man, his life, and his diary

Claire Tomalin certainly knows how to tell a good story. This is a fascinating biography of Pepys, as well as the story of his diary - what it looks like, what it feels like, how he used it, and what happened to it after he died. To bring these parallel stories to life she has recreated the world in which Pepys lived, and introduces us to the people he knew and worked with. This is all supplemented by Tomalin's research into Pepys' life and times, and illuminated by passages from the diary. It's as close as you can get to meeting the man, and visiting the England of his day. Beautifully written, and competently read.

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A Personal Masterpiece in Detailed Context

I know I like Claire Tomalins' biographies, but in this one is special because Pepys gives her some fabulous material to work with. The narrator sounds engaged in the story and overall, this is a great audiobook!

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Enthralling

Claire Tomalin brings the author of the famous diaries to life in this engaging, sympathetic and unsentimental biography. With insight (and a certain amount of scholarly sleuthing) she presents us with a three-dimensional portrait of a great, if not always admirable, figure. There is plenty of fun here, lots of Restoration colour, and of course Pepys' own often outrageous opinions, but also much insight into human nature, elegantly and unpretentiously described. The years in which Pepys was writing his diaries are the meat of the book, and Tomalin would have done well to allow Pepys to speak for himself more often in this period, but this is a small complaint. The narrator is warm and unobtrusive. Altogether a most enjoyable listen. Highly recommended.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • t
  • 04-05-19

massively abridged

huge sections are missing from the original. why? and why isn't this made clear to the buyer?

5 people found this helpful

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  • MrPower
  • 07-23-20

Essential reading before you read the diaries.

I strongly suggest that anyone planning to read Pepys's diaries should first read this excellent biography. And I highly recommend the audiobook version of the diaries as well.

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  • Andy
  • 03-13-20

beautifully read and wonderfully written

a lovely, well-paced skim through the life of a truly extraordinary historical figure, hero and rogue

1 person found this helpful

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  • Diane Severson
  • 09-04-17

Excellent throughout

As is always the case with audio books, ones enjoyment and appreciation of a book is increased or diminished by the quality of the reading. Jill Balcon did a stellar job of reading this biography. One really felt like one was listening to Claire Tomalin, the biographer, talking and telling a story. Her intonation (with the occasional chuckle) and pacing were perfect. No mispronounced words and perfect understandable enunciation. This is a model on how it should be done.

The book itself is highly entertaining and fascinating, especially if you are interested in this period, as I am. The author fleshed out Pepys story with background on what was going on politically, as they affected his life profoundly. The 2nd half of the 17th century was full of turmoil and unrest and it gives insight to the twists and turns that Pepys' life took.

I've read bits and pieces of his diary, but not nearly the whole thing. The period in which he wrote it was fairly short, just a few years in his 20s and 30s. But if he led a fairly ordinary life for a gentleman of middle standing in that era, it is all the more interesting to read about it. Tomalin has done a thorough job of researching his life beyond the diaries and does say that there are certain things that we just don't know. Some is conjecture, based on the nature of the man we got to know in his diaries, but she does say this. She clearly grew to love and respect this enigmatic man and brings us the details of his life with such enthusiasm, that it is a joy to listen to.

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  • tonyridgway
  • 06-28-15

Faye missing link.

A must listen for anyone familiar with Pepys diary.This book fills in all the gaps within the diary,it gives explanation to questions posed throughout the diary.excellent narration and an compelling listen.

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  • Dundiddly
  • 04-08-22

Butchered version

Having read the paperback version, I was looking forward to listening to this, but it soon became obvious that the original has been butchered to squeeze into 6 hours what would probably otherwise have been well over 20 hours. My fault for not noticing that the Audible version is abridged, I know but it seems strange that Tomalin would allow such a perfunctory version of her original masterwork. Thankfully Audible accepted my return request.

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  • Honest Jon
  • 08-29-21

Full of potential empty of detail

I perhaps had too great an expectation of this book. Pepys diaries benefit from knowledgeable interpretation and insight. Sadly Tomalin one feels got bored and turned the prospect of an intelligent insight into an exercise in precis. More a hop skip and a jump rendition of an important classic performed over dramatically.

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  • diane boustany
  • 11-28-20

One for the bucket list

I ordered this to compensate for missing London during this period of confinement - I was not disappointed. To the uneducated (like myself) Pepys is revealed as so much more than his diaries, valuable as they are, what an incredible character. Beautifully and sucinctly written and narrated, no moment wasted in this biography - Pepys life and achievements are all addressed here, as are the author's - and readers will be the better for time spent in their company.

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  • TracyW
  • 08-21-19

Fantastic

Great narration of a fascinating life. Tomalin is a great writer, well researched and very interesting. Would recommend.

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  • Sandy W
  • 05-19-17

Dull narration

I listen to Audible books every day, but I was disappointed with this one. The narration was dull and not easy to listen to.

The book includes a lot of Pepys' marriage problems which after a while became tedious. Like watching a couple argue in public.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-13-22

Pepys biography

great book, bad sound production. muffled and indistinct enunciation. please record again. fascinating content

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  • Janet Moull
  • 02-28-21

A fascinating account of a diarist.

Samuel Pepys was a most interesting man and his reflections of life and events of his time make the most wonderful book. Claire Tomalin has researched him and his life and work thoroughly and with the greatest respect. She writes in beautiful prose and listening to Jill Bacon reading this prose has been a delight.
Highly recommended.

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  • Edmund Doogue
  • 06-06-19

Wonderful

A fascinating book, beautifully read. I was sorry to reach the end of the book. Looking for more by this author.