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An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful Paperback – 28 Mar 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Saraband (28 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908643277
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908643278
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J. David Simons was born in Glasgow in 1953. He studied law at Glasgow University and became a partner at an Edinburgh law firm before giving up his practice in 1978 to live on a kibbutz in Israel. Since then he has lived in Australia, Japan and England, working at various stages along the way as a charity administrator, cotton farmer, language teacher, university lecturer and journalist. He returned to Glasgow in 2006.

Simons' first novel 'The Credit Draper' was published by Two Ravens Press in May 2008 and was shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize in June 2009. This novel is set primarily within Glasgow's Jewish community in the early part of the 20th century and represents the first part of his 'Glasgow to Galilee' trilogy. Simons goes on to tackle issues of socialism, feminism and birth control in Glasgow during the 1920s in his second novel in this trilogy - 'The Liberation of Celia Kahn' - which was published by Five Leaves Publications in February 2011 along with a re-print of 'The Credit Draper'. His third novel 'An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful' is set mainly in Japan and was published by Saraband in March 2013. In this book, Simons examines the theme of denial, especially in regard to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. 'The Land Agent', the third novel in the 'Glasgow to Galilee' trilogy, is scheduled to be published by Saraband in October 2014. As of September 2014, all of Simons' novels are available under the Saraband imprint.

Simons has been awarded two Writer's Bursaries from Creative Scotland and has been a recipient of a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. Apart from his fiction writing, he is also a reviewer for the Booktrust.

Product Description

Review

J. David Simons pulls off an extraordinary trick in 'An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful': the history of post-war Japan; the labyrinth of blame and shame from imperial war atrocities to the gratuitous horror of Nagasaki; Japan beating the West at its own military-industrial game all encapsulated in a subtle, seductive love story. 'An Exquisite Sense' is in the tradition of Graham Greene or our own William Boyd, taking in great sweeps of history without ever losing sight of the personal, the telling detail. Simons clearly knows Japan and, like his hero Edward, has glimpsed, in the cracks between the ancient and über-modern, the East/West schizophrenia, the soul of the place. An accomplished and compelling novel by a storyteller at the top of his game, An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful lives up to its ambitious title, delivering a story that is both delicate in its detail and politically robust. --Chris Dolan, author of Redlegs and Ascension Day

If you're going to call your novel An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful then you have to be prepared to back it up in both style and substance. The title recalls such seminal and philosophical texts as The Unbearable Lightness of Being or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and that's a lot to live up to. Luckily David Simons does this with style and substance. Simons pulls off one of the hardest tricks for a novelist, reflecting world events through the lives of individuals while avoiding the reader feeling like they are being given a history lesson or are being preached to… Simons deals with some major topics, but does so with a wonderful subtlety that lends itself to recognition and empathy…This is Edward's story and it is his journey from a confused, if at times hubristic, youth to a man facing his final days that is so impressive. His life comes to be defined by love, and regret, and the passing of time tips the balance from one to the other, although it also allows for forgiveness, or at least acceptance, from others if never quite from himself… There are a couple of books and writers that [this] reminds me of: James Robertson's And The Land Lay Still, Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers, in style if not in story. Like that novel An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful is artistic, literary and thoroughly involving… Simons depicts the pains and disappointments of old age with an honesty and eloquence which is as rare as it is welcome… A novelist who understands the craft of writing and who, in this case, has applied it exquisitely. --Alistair Braidwood, Scots WhayHae

J David Simons' latest novel set in Scotland, London and Japan is that rare thing, a genuine tour-de-force, a beautifully written love story that combines political impetus, questions about art and truth, and an exotic setting once almost blown to extinction in an act of war. It is the kind of sophisticated, grown-up writing that properly intrigues, and calls to mind the best of William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks. --Lesley McDowell, author and critic

About the Author

J. David Simons is a former lawyer and lecturer at universities in Japan and the UK and is the author of two novels, short stories and essays. His first novel, The Credit Draper, was shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize, and he has received bursaries and writing fellowships from three prestigious organisations. Having spent many years in Japan and other parts of the world, he now lives in Glasgow, the city of his birth.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D Belbin on 12 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You know how you save up one book that you know you want to take on holiday and read with complete concentration? For me, this was that book. I was delighted when it was published the week before we went away. I was knocked out by Simons' previous novel, The Liberation of Celia Kahn and initially disappointed that this wasn't the concluding volume of that historical trilogy. This, however, is a more commercial book, one that could almost be described as a beach read, which is not to say that it is any less well written. Simons has a terrific, fluent prose style. He lived in Japan for seven years and it shows in this story of an aging author and his return to the grand hotel where he wrote his first novel. It flips between the past and present in alternate chapters with a masterly control of suspense and compulsive plotting: the less you know about the story before you start reading, the better. All I'll say is that it's an immensely satisfying read. I made it last two days by rationing myself and, as soon as I'd finished it my partner commandeered it and read it with equal speed and pleasure. If this novel doesn't break through big for Simons and win prizes then the publishing world really has gone to pot.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C McGarry on 12 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback
An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful is that rare thing: a work of literary fiction that is also a page turner.
Simons' prose style is quite sublime, beautifully metered and a pleasure to read, with a strong sense of place and time. The author creates a clutch of compelling characters, particularly the central character Edward. As the narrative flits between the present day and the past, and Japan and London and Glasgow, a creeping suspicion of something shadowy in the soul of our protagonist emerges, yet Simons somehow maintains the reader's sympathy for his key man. The author deals with the cultural nuances of Edward's adopted home in the Far East with a keen eye, and, without pontificating, subtlety entangles the theme of the personal responsibility of his characters with that of collective responsibility: Japan's for her conduct during World War II, versus that of the US, for the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is indeed a beautiful book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on 21 April 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thought this was an excellent book, beautifully written. It crosses Anglo - Japanese cultural boundaries and shows depth of knowledge and experience of both cultures.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 28 Mar 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a ambitious and beautifully crafted novel written by an author with an acute sensibility for Japanese culture. The prose is textured, though never over-wrought and the characters have depth and authenticity; the novel's heartbeat pulses through their tangled relationships and the historical events which form its arc. The book's cover is beautiful and the title is a bold statement of intent. It is a lot to live up to, but Simons carries it off with the serene confidence of a writer who has a unique, mature perspective on east meeting west.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By x on 23 Mar 2013
Format: Paperback
I went to the Glasgow launch of 'An Exquisite Sense ...' and came back with a cherished signed copy. What a beautiful read! The evocative text conjures scenes of Japan, London, New York and Glasgow across narratives spanning several decades, skilfully intertwined. It has brilliant observations of human nature, engaging portrayals of complex love affairs and relationships. Its questions about the latter stages of the Second World War re-emphasise the scale of human loss in Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Buy it ...and a copy for a friend!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By f.richards on 21 April 2013
Format: Paperback
I tried to make the book last as I was really enjoying reading it, but finished it too quickly anyway! Beautiful pace to it. You don't need to know more just read it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Stewart Watson on 14 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautifully written and intelligent love story set in the present day with flash-backs to 1950s London & Japan. I loved the author's description of Japanese landscape and culture along with an important comment on America's quite deliberate failure to recognise their atrocities in dropping two atomic bombs. I'm positive that this will be my best read of 2013! Sandra Spence and John S Watson both love this book!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sophie Franklin on 19 April 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a book of immense depth and profundity. I found that, on almost every page, there was at least one line that captured an essence of something; sentences that contain nuggets of truth. It handled some heavy topics, such as the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings and their reverberations, with delicacy and care, offering two perspectives (through the character of Fisk) whilst maintaining the strong narrative voice of Edward throughout. For me, one of the most successful aspects of the novel was the interweaving of Edward's younger and older self. Each chapter opened with an Edward from a different era, alternating between the past and the present. I was gripped throughout, knowing that there were clues in younger Edward's narrative that would illuminate, and ultimately reveal, the unnamed undercurrent of tension that lay beneath Edward's story. I also loved the presence of art and literature in the book, with the quest for artistic and literary inspiration and ambition often clashing with relationships. The novel explores numerous binaries, not least the ones that its blurb mentions (East and West, love and war, truth and delusion) - I would also add, the past and the present, with the themes of memory and regret running throughout. I would say that the novel proves that so many things in life are not black and white; they are often complex and chaotic. The novel alludes to forces beyond our control, whether it be other people, natural occurrences or world powers. Simons beautifully depicts such complexity through the figure of Edward, bringing together all of these aspects and more, whilst avoiding any heaviness in the writing. The ending, too, was another beautiful touch, something that I did not see coming and, yet, once I had read it, felt inevitable, as though there was no other choice. A truly beautiful feat of writing! I encourage everyone to read it!
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