This book Wow I m only halfway done and feel I need to capture some thoughts.I read Out of Africa although I don t remember much except feeling frustrated Now I know why It wasn t a memoir, it wasn t a novel, it was a hodgepodge and it confused me.I put Isak Dinesen on my list because it won the National Book Award and I went through a phase of putting all NBAs on my list When I got it from Interlibrary Loan, I was looking at a 450 pager with small print This can t be good , I thought.I was so wrong It s fascinating You hate her, you love her, you laugh and sympathize with Karen Tanne Isak Osceola or whatever she wants to call herself that day.Clearly Thurman was obsessed with her in the best way possible This book is amazing It s so well researched and, at 445 pages save the very detailed bibliography , it s not an easy lifter But the pace is quick and the details don t bog you down The literary criticism was the only thing that was slow.I don t think I ve ever read a biography or autobiography that so clearly dissected a person and then presented that dissection in a readable format Well done, Judith Thurman A fascinating story of the life of a Storyteller Judith Thurman began weaving the story when Isak started a life she cheerished never really wanted to leave as she says in the first line of Out of Africa I had a farm in Africa,at the foot of the Ngong Hills.The fact that she basically purchased her Title Baroness from Bror through marriage to himwhen she really loved his twin brothera relationship that was NOT going anywheresays she s fiesty.Dinesen had a privileged childhood,loved her Father to the depths of her soul,tolerated her Mother Aunt Bess born of the Upper Class ,immigrated to Africa to become the wife of her cousingiving her a Title,becoming a Farmer,had undying LOVE for the Kikuyu people,abandoned by her husband after he gave her syphillisthat would debilate her for life,falling in love with Denys Finch Hatton,Dinner StoryTelling,lossing her BELOVED Farm in Africa,moving back to Denmarkleading a depressing life she hatedunless of course she was away on holidayall while writing some of the most wonderful stories that a reader could ask forWhat A StoryTeller She often referred to her life as the tale of two lovers,a pair of locked caskets,each containing the key to the other.Isak Karen Tania Tanne was a complex woman When I was lucky enough to travel to Denmark, was I excited by all history By the beautiful castles By the wonderful food No I was over the moon because I could go to Isak Dinesen s Karen Blixen s house While there, I broke one of my cardinal rules, don t buy a book aboard that you can get at home, unless it is used I brought this biography there, among a couple other books.Thurman does a very good job of portraying, not only Blixen but her family and friends as well In particular, when Thurman is describing Blixen s time in Africa, there is a sense of peace to the prose, a sense of another world, and we see Africa, not in the same way as in Out of Africa, but in a way that allows us to get closer to Blixen I enjoyed Thurman s description of how Europeans viewed Kenya at the time, In Karen Blixen s day the coast of Kenya was considered unlivable by Europeans or those who had never spent a summer in New York City.When dealing Blixen s marriage and love affair, Thurman achieves a balance that is not seen in the movie Out of Africa, and the figures of Bror Blixen as well as Denys are farinteresting in real life than in the movie Take for instance Thurman s comment on Bror s opinion of Blixen s relationship with Denysif anything, he was proud that his wife s lover was of such high caliber Thurman also does not whitewash Blixen and shows all aspects of her character.Thurman includes many interesting family stories, the most interesting one being the debate between Blixen and her father over women s secret power Blixen apparently define such secret power as that nerve it takes to sit on a powder keg and threaten to ignite it, while all the time you know that it is empty.In short, this is a good, entertaining biography, I appreciate literary biography, and I consider this particular book to be at the very apex of that genre Meticulously researched, richly described, not only of the culture and times of late 19th and early 20th century Europe and Africa, but of the fascinating, difficult, frequently unlikable character of Isak Dinesen, aka Karen Blixen What I found interesting was that Ms Blixen s tendency to self delusion and deception was central to her psychological survival and even her talent She elevated her relationship with Denys Finch Hatton, particularly after his death, to something it never was She was a true original, a singular character An anorexic, a victim of her husband s infidelities, infected with syphilis, yet she still maintained a great age, even with it An iconic, fashion figure, a sort of magnificent grotesque in her older years Thurman does a transcendant job of capturing the spirit of t his woman who lived so large and flaunted the Victorian upper class conventions and restrictions by living in Afica and simply doing as she pleased after a certain point.Blixen was an often unsympathetic character, but her story is just riveting I love stories and biographies that come out of this era, the early 20th century I became fascinated with Denys Finch Hatton after reading this, curious as to who the man was the obsessesed a woman like the subject of this book His biography is not nearly as well done as this one, and there is just less on him to write about, but it s a nice book to read after you read this one You see what a relatively minor character she was in his life, as opposed to the role she cast herself in. I watched the movie.I became obsessed with this woman.I read this biography.I wanted to be this woman. This is a very good book Much better, IMHO, than the book that Dinesen wrote herself, Out of Africa.Coupled with another great book, Circling the Sun, by Paula McClain, it describes an unknown and romantic world in the country of Kenya. A Brilliant Literary Portrait, Isak Dinesen Remains The Only Comprehensive Biography Of One Of The Greatest Storytellers Of Our Time Her Magnificent Memoir, Out Of Africa, Established Isak Dinesen As A Major Twentieth Century Author, Who Was Twice Nominated For The Nobel PrizeWith Exceptional Grace, Judith Thurman S Classic Work Explores Dinesen S Life Until The Appearance Of This Book, The Life And Art Of Isak Dinesen Have Been As Dinesen Herself Wrote Of Two Lovers In A Tale A Pair Of Locked Caskets, Each Containing The Key To The Other Judith Thurman Has Provided The Master Key To Them BothWinner Of The National Book Award Fascinating story about a creative and an absolute true human being living through her own dark and polluted family inheritance A human being going for love with no space for negotiation of any kind which made these experiences so pricy Still reading Karen Blixen a woman being strong before it was acceptable Syphyliss be damned Her life, loves and even death lended wisdom to the page Love her. This is a terrific biography, but as one might expect Dinesen Blixen was an exceedingly complex and at time difficult woman, and this biography doesn t shy away from some of theunflattering aspects of Blixen s character Thurman plumbs her psyche in a way that isn t overly psychoanalytic but which still makes it clear what Blixen s driving forces were Perhaps it is my own prejudices, but I enjoyed the first half of the book, which involved Blixen s childhood and her life in Africa,than I did the second half, when she had moved back to Europe and become a literary personage And, like all well done biographies, the end is rather painful I believe Thurman won the National Book Award or perhaps a Pen Faulkner for this biography, and it was certainly well deserved.