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The Ascent of Isaac Steward [Paperback]

Mike French
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

16 Jun 2011
The Ascent of Isaac Steward is the remarkable and extraordinary debut novel from the senior editor of the prestigious literary magazine, The View From Here. Written with a literary, lyrical voice, the book follows Isaac Steward in an emotional and original tale as he struggles to deal with the resurfacing of a suppressed memory of a car crash a year ago which killed his wife, Rebekah, his son, Esau, and left his other son, Jacob, in a coma. Isaac becomes increasingly dysfunctional and delusional as the story unfolds in a hypnotic and startling way bringing into play childhood memories of a Punch and Judy show and the revelation from his half-brother, Ishmael, that in order to be reunited with Rebekah he must be brought to a tree from his father's wood called The Dandelion Tree. To help him, Isaac slips in and out of being Major Tom Donaldson, a SAS commander fashioned by his mind to help him regress back to a time of naiveté and happiness before the accident. But Donaldson brings only death and violence and Isaac struggles to keep a grip on reality as he descends into his mind and starts to question if he himself has already died. Atmospheric and sensual and dealing with universal desires of love and reconciliation, The Ascent of Isaac Steward is reminiscent of the surrealist literary experiments of James Joyce but highly readable. Readers will be astounded, transfixed and immersed in the world long after turning the last page.

Product details

  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Cauliay Publishing & Distribution (16 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956881017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956881014
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,623,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike French is an author and the owner and senior editor of the prestigious literary magazine, The View From Here which has been called many fine things since it started in 2007 including, "Attractive, informative, sparkling and useful" by the late Iain M. Banks and for having a "great passion and drive" by Booker shortlisted Tom McCarthy.

Mike's debut novel, The Ascent of Isaac Steward came out in 2011 with Cauliay Publishing and was nominated for The Galaxy National Book Awards which due to an unfortunate clerical error was awarded to Dawn French.

Mike's second novel a dsytopian sci-fi called Blue Friday was released in 2012 by Elsewhen Press and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award 2013. Convergence, his third book, was released in October 2013 from Elsewhen Press and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award 2014.

Born in Cornwall in 1967, Mike spent his childhood flipping between England and Scotland with a few years in between in Singapore. Splitting his time between his own writing, editing the magazine, running workshops and working with atp media in Luton, Mike is married with three children and a growing number of pets. He currently lives in Luton in the UK and when not working watches Formula 1, eats Ben & Jerry's Phish Food and listens to Noah and the Whale.


Website: http://mikefrench.net

Product Description

Review

Moving and lyrical, original and hypnotic a remarkable debut novel. MICHAEL KIMBALL, Dear Everybody Reminiscent of the surrealist literary experiments of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake but blessedly readable The Ascent of Isaac Steward is insanely ambitious, startlingly odd, boldly conceived and executed with tremendous confidence. One of the most extraordinary novels I've ever read. R.N. MORRIS, A Razor Wrapped in Silk A real neo-modernist triumph JUXTABOOK Powerful evocative beautifully clear impressions and images. BOOKLORE Linguistically this is a powerfully done novel, with exquisite prose and an interesting psychological premise that raises strong questions about the power of internal cognition. THE COMPULSIVE READER A richness and abundance of imagination and originality, beauty of imagery, tenderness, vividness and page after page of surprise and variety. THE LANCASHIRE WRITING HUB A must for everyone's bucket-list if you are looking for a totally unique experience. SCREENSCRIBBLER --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Mike French is the owner and senior editor of the prestigious literary magazine, The View From Here which has been called many fine things since it started in 2007 including, "Attractive, informative, sparkling and useful" by Iain M. Banks and for having a "great passion and drive" by Booker shortlisted Tom McCarthy. Mike's debut novel, The Ascent of Isaac Steward, the first book of the Dandelion Trilogy, was published in 2011 and nominated for The Galaxy National Book Awards which presumably due to an unfortunate clerical error was awarded to Dawn French. The second book in the trilogy, the satirical Blue Friday, was published in 2012 by Elsewhen Press. The third book, Convergence, is expected later this year. Born in Cornwall in 1967, Mike spent his childhood flipping between England and Scotland with a few years in between in Singapore. Splitting his time between his own writing, editing the magazine, running author workshops and working with atp media in Luton, Mike is married with three children and a growing number of pets. He currently lives in Luton in the UK and when not working watches Formula 1, eats Ben & Jerry's Phish Food and listens to Noah and the Whale. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mesmerising debut from an emerging new talent 13 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback
This is the captivating story of Isaac, a man swamped by grief and guilt following a car accident that killed his wife and one of his twin sons, leaving the other on a life support machine. Written in the third person, this highly original narrative weaves in and out of the depths of Isaac's chaotic mind. Immersed in Isaac's bizarre inner world, it is difficult to differentiate between the past and the present, those dead and those alive, what is real and what exists only in the recesses of his mind, leaving the reader disoriented and disturbed. The ability to make you feel deranged is the magic of this book as French artfully recreates the state of Isaac's mind as he breaks down. As well as projecting us straight into Isaac's subconscious, where we are privy to the internal dialogue between Isaac's various demons, we are also able to externally observe Isaac's breakdown, for example, watching him shoplift a dirty magazine from the hospital shop and stick a pinup on the wall near his son Jacob's bed, insisting it is a photo of his wife Rebekah. Poignant and painful, there are many beautifully written, tender scenes in this tragic tale. Accompanying Isaac on his emotional journey which 'ends' with as many unanswered questions as it 'begins', left me exhausted and wrung out, as I had come to care deeply about what happened to him. The experiemental nature of the text leaves plenty of room for readers to make their own meaning and I suspect every reader will come away with their own version of Isaac's fate. A fascinating read, which will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Mike is a friend, so I am slightly prejudiced but going to try and be objective. The Ascent of Isaac Steward is a unique book and frankly, not being as well read as some, I've never read anything like it before. Compared to other literary works I've read it's highly experimental with very strong elements of the surreal. So to that extent, if you want a book that has a clear "plot" this is not the book for you - this is a book that ebbs and flows as if it's the subconscious mind - if you can imagine awakening from a very vivid dream and you're not quite sure whether what you've dreamt is actually genuine memories or dreams and even then if you try to piece the images together you're never quite sure what the story/reality is. I think that is the sort of confusion Mike is trying to portray- and which is the effect that profound grief can have on a person - I certainly remember that after my father died, after a long struggle with cancer, being stricken by dreams so vivid I almost believed some of the events when logically I knew they could not have happened. So this is a novel essentially about grief - a difficult subject at the best of times but one which Mike has approached in a very unusual and distinctive way - it's not an "easy" read in the traditional sense but if you appreciate literature that stretches the mind then it might be one for you. The language is wonderful by the way, but enough said or I'll be asking Mike for a tenner!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-altering 12 April 2012
Format:Paperback
I was totally absorbed in this incredible book and I didn't want it to end. I am so grateful to the writer for stretching my imagination to worlds that I could never have dreamed up myself.
It was a journey into to separate dimensions, the protagonist's external reality and the surreal world of his subconsciousness.

It's a must for everyone's bucket-list if you are looking for a totally unique experience.The Ascent of Isaac Steward
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ascent of Isaac Steward review 3 Feb 2012
By Paul
Format:Paperback
The Ascent of Isaac Steward is accompanied by some fine endorsements, and this one by author R.N.Morris (A Razor Wrapped in Silk) has been much referred to in various reviews: "Reminiscent of the surrealist literary experiments of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake but blessedly readable. The Ascent of Isaac Steward is insanely ambitious, startlingly odd, boldly conceived, and executed with tremendous confidence. One of the most extraordinary novels I have ever read."

I have no trouble agreeing with anything R.N.Morris has written here - he hasn't put a word wrong as far as I'm concerned - although I have to admit that my knowledge of Finnegan's Wake is based on a brief glance rather than a sound reading. However, it does allow me to reassure prospective readers that, unlike Finnegan's Wake, the prose in Ascent is comprehensible and indeed "blessedly readable". That aside, because Mike French has created a novel which is wonderfully unique and experimental, it's probably normal (and useful) to have such a reference point against which to compare and contrast it, in order to clarify one's thoughts.

If I were to liken it to any book I've read before, it would be to Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman (yes, let's keep this with the Irish, even though Mike French is English, and not Irish... or French). To my mind, The Ascent of Isaac Steward, like The Third Policeman, and William Golding's Pincher Martin even, explores the nether world between the ending of a life and the recognition of death. It's fertile, surreal ground because we have no idea what dying and death is like, so almost anything goes.
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