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Absolution [Hardcover]

Patrick Flanery
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize

In her garden, ensconced in the lush vegetation of the Western Cape, Clare Wald, world-renowned author, mother, critic, takes up her pen and confronts her life. Sam Leroux has returned to South Africa to embark upon a project that will establish his reputation - he is to write Clare's biography. But how honest is she prepared to be? Was she complicit in crimes lurking in South Africa's past; is she an accomplice or a victim? Are her crimes against her family real or imagined? As Sam and Clare turn over the events of her life, she begins to seek reconciliation, absolution. But in the stories she weaves and the truth just below the surface of her shimmering prose, lie Sam's own ghosts.

Absolution shines light on contemporary South Africa and the long dark shadow of Apartheid, the elusive nature of truth and self-perception and the mysterious alchemy of the creative process. It is a debut of extraordinary strength and power.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; First Edition edition (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857892002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857892003
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 430,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Flanery's portrayal of South Africa is explosively powerful... An exceptionally intelligent, multi-layered novel encompassing politics, history, a gripping storyline and complex characters. It has absorbing depictions of grief, guilt, parenthood and sibling rivalry, and is beautifully written... Absolution is an exceptional book.' --Independent

'The wonder of this outstanding novel is that Flanery weaves the stories together with such assurance and craftsmanship, digging underneath many recieved ideas about the old and new South Africa.' --The Times

'Patrick Flanery is an exceptionally gifted novelist, and he is just getting started' --New Yorker

About the Author

Patrick Flanery was born in California in 1975 and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. After earning a BFA in Film from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts he worked for three years in the film industry before moving to the UK, where he completed a doctorate in Twentieth-Century English Literature at the University of Oxford. As well as publishing scholarly articles on British and South African literature and film in a number of academic journals, he has written for Slightly Foxed and The Times Literary Supplement. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable glimpse into a complex country 31 May 2013
I was surprised when I noticed that the author is an American living in London rather than South African. I found his portrait of today's South Africa convincing and am willing to believe that his imaginative research is good and that he must have meaningful contacts with the country. The story moves through a variety of landscapes and, although it was a minor part, I found myself particularly enjoying the central character's attempts to work in harmony with different gardeners in her large expensive houses and balance her own aesthetic preferences with the gardeners' rights to work the soil as they chose and nurture the indigenous rather than the imported plants. Extracted like that it sounds overly-programmatic (and one of the gardeners is called Adam). In the context of the story it works well and offsets, in some small way, the over riding paranoia of the gated communities in which the white characters hide from the impoverished and violent. The main story of the book is an examination of past actions, of guilt and motive. Did the structure of the novel need to be so complex? Intellectually yes - emotionally, I wasn't quite so sure.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
If Patrick Flanery's South African set debut novel "Absolution" is anything to go by, he could well be one of the next big names in literary fiction. It's complex and at times challenging, but ultimately an extremely rewarding reading experience.

The narrative is braided and follows several characters through four repeating chapter headings. Finding your way about what is going on here is initially somewhat confusing, and how they interplay together is part of the joy of the book not something I want to reveal too much about to a potential reader. It starts with Sam, an academic who is returning to his native South Africa from the US to write a reluctantly authorised biography of Clare Wald, a difficult elderly writer. Secondly, there's a third-person narrative that starts with the aftermath of a house invasion at Clare's house. Thirdly, there is a first-person narrative set in the past about Clare's daughter Laura, who has since disappeared. The final thread is a flashback to Sam's own youth. We know from very early on that there is a shared past between Clare and Sam, of which Clare seems oblivious. It's that shared past that drives the novel. One of the threads is entitled "Absolution" which we learn fairly early on is Clare's own fictionalised, and soon to be published, memoir of events. But unlike with her initial contact with Sam, she is not deliberately obfuscating the truth - she simply doesn't know what happened. She's just trying to pull the threads together herself.

If that all sounds very confusing, then it is - at least at first. If you like your novels to start at the beginning and end at the end, then this isn't the book for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars absorbing literary debut 13 July 2013
By Bobbie
Mis-described by some reviews as a thriller, this is an intricate, ambitious, literary novel that takes a discomforting look at white guilt and fear and the impossibility of trust in post-apartheid South Africa. In slow reveal through five narratives, because of the fallibility of evidence and memory it delivers no final certainty or message.
The complex structure distanced me, as did the literary, analytical style, particularly in Clare Wald's dialogue. And one imagined scene about a Kafkaesque killing system seemed to have found its way into the wrong novel. Nevertheless, I found it absorbing and interesting, and the pages turned easily.
I'm intrigued that the author is an American. I'd be interested to see what he writes next.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less here than meets the eye 8 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm afraid I didn't get on as well with this book as some other reviewers did. It has all the hallmarks of a book which expects to be considered for literary prizes - elegant prose, themes and setting chosen for their Great Importance, multiple narrative voices and fractured timescale, and so on - but I found it a long slog and in the end I wasn't convinced that it is as profound as it thinks it is.

The publisher's synopsis on this page gives a good account of the book's plot and themes, and there were certainly good things about it. It paints a vivid picture of immediately post-apartheid South Africa with the constant fear of violent crime and the difficulty of straightforward relationships between races even for people of good will. The elderly writer Clare's character in particular was believable and well drawn and there are some horrifyingly haunting scenes. But, oh dear, it did go on. Flanery explores the nature of guilt and redemption but, in spite of the importance of the setting and set-pieces like the long, stilted, quasi-legal discussion between Clare and her lawyer son toward the end of the book, I didn't find much in the way of new insight here.

Flanery is also playing with the idea of memory and its failings and distortions with differing versions of events so that we are constantly unsure of what is fiction, what is lies and what are imperfect memories. This can work well in a story but and I found that it wore very thin in the end and didn't really say much of importance. Then, close to the end of the book Clare says "Perhaps the literal truth is not what you have remembered, but the truth of memory is no less accurate in its way." This is nonsense dressed up as profundity. It may be no less important or influential, but no less *accurate*?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A Longwinded Slog
well yes it may have extraordinary strength and power as the jacket stated but it bored me senseless – it was a book I was desperate to get to the end of just to be rid of it, and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. D
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good read
I enjoyed this book, the switching between characters to tell it worked well and provided a good read for me.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. Jane L. Rhodes
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolution . Patrick Flanery
It hasn't deceived me. The book is entertaining. I bought It for the picture of the cover, though. Thank you.
Published 6 months ago by alejandra
3.0 out of 5 stars A confused mix
Successful elderly writer Clare Wald, summons young journalist Sam Leroux to her home with the intent of allowing him to be her biographer, and their conversations illuminate her... Read more
Published 9 months ago by R. A. Davison
3.0 out of 5 stars Im still unsure of what the story was
Really lovely style but i just didn't get the story. Probably suits cleverer people than I. Apparently I need 4 more words, right, that did it.
Published 12 months ago by Claire McNmara
1.0 out of 5 stars intrigue!
Although I like spy thrillers, this one did not do it for me. I found it confusing, disjointed & had no continuity.
Published 15 months ago by Mrs. V.Rees
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious - but not as complex and challenging as I expected
This is an ambitious and multi-layered engagement with post-apartheid South Africa, and a complicated unravelling of where political motives might overlap with the personal. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Roman Clodia
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant First Novel
Looking at the dictionary, 'Absolution' can mean formally setting free from guilt and the heart of this novel is the need for the mother to absolve herself from the way in which... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Richard M. Seel
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a prizewinner for me
Good to get a feel for South Africa back in the days of the troubles. Some interesting story lines but I found it somewhat tedious. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mrs C M Jones
2.0 out of 5 stars Cold in South Africa.
I have no objection to a challenging narrative but I could make no emotional contact with these characters at all. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Sue Kichenside
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