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All is Song Paperback – 3 Jan 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (3 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099566060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099566069
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 300,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Intense, rewarding and bracingly serious" (Adrian Turpin Financial Times)

"Profoundly beautiful, cathartic writing." (Catherine Taylor Daily Telegraph)

"A fine study of the nature and strength of family ties and the morality, or otherwise, of conforming where it matters" (Kate Saunders The Times)

"This beautifully written composition does that rare thing, of provoking free thought, while scrutinising the far-reaching repercussions of such rebellious activity" (Freya McClelland Independent)

"Harvey's slow, intense thoughtfulness feels positively Woolfean at times. She thinks deeply, and writes beautifully about these thoughts." (Lucy Atkins Sunday Times)

Book Description

A fiercely intelligent and moving second novel from the author of the acclaimed The Wilderness.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Just William on 27 Dec 2011
Format: Hardcover
Harvey's debut, The Wilderness, received some impressive critical responses when published, the general consensus being that it didn't read like a debut at all but the work of a far more established writer. I haven't read it, but after reading her new novel I don't feel like I need to in order to proclaim her a writer every bit as promising as that debut suggested. All Is Song is a novel of great intelligence and understanding, the kind of book in which very little actually happens and yet which grips from first page to last with its philosophical, spiritual and emotional explorations. In this way Harvey is the natural heir to Iris Murdoch who I was reminded of when reading this book. Human and humane in its examination of personal responsibility, a small cast of characters become incredibly close to the reader so that it becomes a very moving reading experience.

It's so good in fact that settling down to write this review I wonder which of its many strands I should write about. This is a complex novel, not because it features many characters or a multi-layered narrative, but because it gets under the skin of its small cast and really wrestles with its themes and ideas. At its centre are two brothers, and filial love is one of the things Harvey writes about so fearlessly. Leonard Deppling has spent the last year on sabbatical from his work as a religious studies teacher to care for his dying father.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Leyla Sanai on 5 Jan 2012
Format: Hardcover
All Is Song by Samantha Harvey

Jonathan Cape £16.99

Reviewed by Leyla Sanai

Samantha Harvey's debut, The Wilderness, was a stunning exploration of dementia, and scooped the Betty Trask Prize as well as being shortlisted for The Orange and longlisted for The Man Booker. Her second novel is no less ambitious, its subject being the ethical duty a man feels towards his brother, who he loves but can't comprehend.

Leonard has recently returned from Scotland where he was looking after his retired vicar father in his final illness. His elder brother William did not come to visit during that year, nor did he turn up to the funeral. Their father worried about William to the end, most notably William's role as an activist and whether he was involved in the physical violence shown during the poll tax riots years before. Leonard adores his brother but is frustrated by William's obtuse outlook: his belief that crime is due simply to ignorance, that trivial and major acts of violence are equivalent, his impatience with any form of communication other than the spoken word, and his tenacious propensity to analyse semantics ('...that utterly besetting need to hound, to hound, to send the questions off like dogs in pursuit of answers, a kind of grasping, deranged compulsiveness.') When one of the young men William knows commits a wantonly destructive crime and implicates William, Leonard is drawn inexorably into his brother's Iife and beliefs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Jun 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is written in the third person, but from the point of view of Leonard, the younger of two brothers, both in their fifties. He had taken leave from his profession as sixth form teacher of religious studies in London to attend to his frail and widowed clergyman father up in Edinburgh in the last months of his life. The old man had worried about his elder son, William, who had given up paid employment as a university teacher ten years earlier, was now teaching, free of charge and in the Socratic manner, a number of young disciples and had become the champion of radical protest movements, some of which had engaged in the poll tax riots of 1990. His father could not understand him; William had not come to visit him in those last months, nor did he attend his father's funeral.

Leonard does not really understand William either. On his return to London their contact is closer than at any time since their childhood. Circumstances had made him move out of the home he had shared with his girl friend, and he had accepted William's offer to move in with him and his family. There is great warmth between the brothers, different though they are. Leonard is only intellectually interested in religions and has no faith in any of them. William is deeply religious, but without adhering to any orthodoxy, casually spartan, eccentric and in some ways quite unworldly. He thinks constantly about how to lead an ethical life. When he is not persistently Socratic in his questioning (not only with his pupils, but in conversation with Leonard and others,- and with himself, too), he expresses himself slowly, mildly, calmly, serenely, quirkily, puzzlingly.
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