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Sentenced to Life

4.1 based on 104 ratings & 23 reviews on

09 April 15


In his insightful collection of poems Clive James looks back over an extraordinarily rich life with a clear-eyed and unflinching honesty. There are regrets, but no trace of self-pity in these verses, which - for all their open dealings with death and illness - are primarily a celebration of what is treasurable and memorable in our time here.

Again and again, James reminds us that he is not only a poet of effortless wit and lyric accomplishment: he is also an immensely wise one, who delights in using poetic form to bring a razor-sharp focus to his thought. Miraculously, these poems see James writing with his insight and energy not only undiminished but positively charged by his situation: Sentenced to Life represents a career high point from one of the greatest literary intelligences of the age.

In the media

A writer whose commanding voice contains a constant variety of colour and tone
His poems have a poignancy and a moving recognition of the finality of life that all must face . . . Clive James is courageously fighting his dark future with that most powerful of weapons: poetry.He may lose the battle but his words will linger
It's not common for any book of poetry to hit number two in the bestseller charts, but there it stands . . . Clive James, cracking graceful jokes in a room full of old friends and young admirers, showed there's another way to [face death]
Evening Standard