This Boy's Life.

By Tobias Wolff

Printed: 1989

Publisher: Bloomsbury. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 17 × 24 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 24 x 3

Buy Now

Item information


In the original dustsheet. Turquoise cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

The author of “The Barracks Thief” and “Hunters in the Snow” recreates his boyhood experiences, relating how he and his mother travelled throughout the United States, and tracing his experiences and changes from young boy to manhood against the background of a violent and wildly optimistic America.

Review: Leaving Sarasota, Florida, in a run-down Nash Rambler in 1955, Toby Wolff, then ten, and his mother are looking forward to a new life in Utah. Not long after arriving, however, the two make a sudden, night-time departure for newer pastures in Seattle–the mother’s abusive relationship in Utah having become intolerable. Later Toby and his mother gravitate to Chinook, a remote village in the Cascades. His mother marries a tough man who cruelly punishes Toby (who has changed his name to Jack in honor of Jack London) for infractions, sells some of Toby’s belongings, and tries to enforce military discipline on him.

Wolff’s story of his grim life from age ten through high school is a breath-taking recreation, filled with the sorts of longings that motivate sensitive young boys everywhere, but also filled with a self-awareness that is rare in such autobiographies. Jack (Toby) is a rebel–a sometime kleptomaniac, thief, cheater, liar, and schoolboy miscreant who loves his mother, hates his stepfather (and generally tries to avoid him), and hangs out with similarly alienated, hell-raising schoolmates, who often “escape” through alcohol.

When he was a sophomore in high school, he talked with his older brother for the first time in six years. His brother, now a student at Princeton, remained with his father when his parents split, and he encouraged Jack to apply as a scholarship student to an eastern boarding school, thereby escaping his step-father and starting yet another new life. Jack’s only academic interest to date has been in writing, thanks to the inspiration of his English teacher, but he is intrigued with the idea of escape. The story of how Wolff lies and cheats his way into a prep school is a classic. (The fictionalized story of his boarding school life appears in his recent novel, Old School.)

Throughout this self-examination, which is hilariously funny in many places and remarkably astute, Jack sees himself as the “Jack” he invents to suit circumstances, while simultaneously revealing himself as he really is, the hidden “Jack.” Like many his age, he often takes the easy way out, and he recognizes this, too. As he grapples with perennial issues of growing up, needing to be accepted, learning what is “right,” and changing his behavior to meet the differing expectations of peers, family, and the preacher with whom he lives for three months, he comes to new understandings about himself and his place in the world. One of the best and most honest coming-of-age stories ever written, This Boy’s Life is a modern classic.



Tobias Wolff was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in Washington State. He attended Oxford University and Stanford University, where he now teaches English and creative writing. He has received the Story Prize, both the Rea Award and PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the short story, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Want to know more about this item?

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about this item. In addition, it is also possible to request more photographs if there is something specific you want illustrated.
Ask a question

Share this Page with a friend