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Atmospheric Disturbances (Basic) [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Rivka Galchen
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Oct 2008 Basic

‘Last December, a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife…’ Dr Leo Liebenstein is convinced that his wife has disappeared and that she has been replaced by a double.

While everyone else may be fooled, Leo knows she cannot be his real wife, and sets off on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love. With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey – who believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weather – Leo attempts to unravel this mystery. Why has his wife been replaced? What do the secret workings of The Royal Society of Meteorology have to do with it? Who is the enigmatic Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, and is he, or maybe his wife, or perhaps even Harvey, at the centre of it all? From the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo’s erratic quest ultimately becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the uncontested truth he knows to be false.

‘Atmospheric Disturbances’ is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind. In this highly inventive debut, with tremendous compassion and dazzling literary sophistication, Rivka Galchen explores the mysterious nature of human relationships, and how we spend our lives trying to weather the storms of our own making.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition (3 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1410410404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1410410405
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,300,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'An original and affecting novel, one that knows how to move from the comic to the painful.’ New Yorker

'Genuinely suspenseful, fresh and wry…Galchen is a writer to be watched.’ The Economist

‘A playful and moving novel.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Rivka Galchen’s “Atmospheric Disturbances” is playful yet profound, Murakami-esque yet original, analytical yet heartbreaking. It’s an absolutely stunning and unforgettable debut.’ Vendela Vida, author of ‘Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name’

'Rivka Galchen has written a powerful novel about love, longing, Doppler radar, and the true appreciation of a nice cookie with your tea. “Atmospheric Disturbances” is fantastic.' Nathan Englander, author of 'The Ministry of Special Cases'

‘Reader, you are holding in your hand one of my favorite novels ever: Rivka Galchen's divinely hilarious, heartbreaking tale of Leo's search for his ‘lost’ wife Rema. This is a novel of Borgesian erudition, wit, and playfulness, though its obsessively pursued subject – as it rarely was in the Argentine's fiction – is love, the enraptured lover, and the mystery of the beloved, the intersection of love's fictions, realities, and pathologies. It is also as funny as any episode of the Simpsons (imagine Homer as a besotted and brilliant New York psychiatrist). The prose jumps with one astonishing observation, insight, and description after another. “Atmospheric Disturbances” delivers unforgettable joy.' Francisco Goldman, author of 'The Divine Husband'

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

Rivka Galchen's `Atmospheric Disturbances' is an extraordinary, mind-boggling and entertaining tale which will challenge the way you view reality. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Voyage around her father... 22 Aug 2008
By Andy Millward VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
You might view this book as either a beautifully-written and subtly inconclusive thriller about a doppelganger appearing for a man's wife, a detailed analysis of the assorted neuroses and psychoses of a New York psychiatrist, a pseudo-academic treatise on meteorology, a hefty measure of autobiography in which the writer indulges in a voyage around her father, who as stated died in 1994 of a sudden heart attack, and/or a load of nonsense masquerading as fiction!

The blurb states: "Atmospheric Disturbances investigates the moment of crisis when you suddenly understand that the reality you insist upon is no longer one you can accept, the person you love has been somehow reduced to merely the person you live with, and how you spend your life trying to weather the storms of your own making."

All of which are true, though anyone reading the book could not help to think that the facsimile Rema is the real version and that Dr Leo has taken leave of his senses - maybe the fate of psychiatrists everywhere? Full marks to Rema for not giving up on him, though he appears every bit as gaga as his weather-changing patient Harvey (a name artfully chosen, I thought.)

On the other hand, maybe this debate is irrelevant. This is a closely-observed book in which not an awful lot happens but a great deal of time is spent deconstructing it in minute detail. At first it seems refreshing, though as time wears on you tire of Dr Leo and his anally-retentive ramblings. His tale peters out with speculation about how he might go on living with the doppelganger, though we have no word on what Rema's views might be on that. Maybe that's an opportunity for the next novel?

For me, the most decisive conclusion is that I want to visit Buenos Aires and maybe even Patagonia, though probably not with a self-obsessed American psychiatrist, nor with my wife or her mother or any of my clients!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Extremely convincing, but not a good book 5 Aug 2008
By Alan Moore VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The plot, such as it is, has already been described in detail, so here's the quick version: a middle-aged psychiatrist believes his wife has been replaced. The perfect set-up for a paranoia thriller, perhaps? Well, yes, but this is not the author's intent.

The intent is to accurately describe, from the narrator's point of view, a slide into psychosis. The author succeeds in this, and for that has my respect, Unfortunately, this leaves us with a novel of minimal plot.

The first half of the book attempts to preserve the mystery and keep the narrator's theory believable. Here, the author has my sympathy, as the last paragraph of the description on the book jacket reveals the truth about the protagonist's situation. The second half finally sees some narrative movement, but by this point, the novel has become rather tedious. Thanks to the publisher, what should be a slow, mysterious build-up in which the reader makes their own judgement becomes rather dull -- like watching the first half of The Matrix while Keanu Reeves tries to figure out the blatantly obvious.

Rivka Galchen must be an expert on the condition the narrator suffers from, and paints an extremely convincing first-hand picture of the neuroses and delusions of the protagonist, although one would expect most men in his situation to simply experience a mid-life crisis, and buy a sports car and attempt to woo 20-something girls. We receive no sense of reality, or even location, as we read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magical realism makes for compelling reading 27 July 2008
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've always loved the theme of doppelgangers, and this seemed like the perfect tale from the outset with its Stepford wife premise. The story is certainly original - a bizarre psychological mix of paranoia, delusion, and perceived realities - although it's not a realist tale in the strictest sense. Beneath the very odd surface it's an unconventional love story full of melancholy and sadness, and although it does feel slightly unresolved, the author writes such terse and eloquent prose - at times really beautiful. Writing against backdrops from New York to Amazonia, there's a touch of the magical realism of Garcia Marquez in there at times.

It's a novel of many layers and as such isn't an easy, throwaway read or something the reader will 'get' straight away - but it is compelling reading, and rewarding if you spare it the thinking time afterwards.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ultra-inventive debut novel 5 Dec 2008
By Andrew Sutherland VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Idiosyncratic debut novel - all digressive, quirky, idiomatic phrasing (hints of Dostoevsky and Thomas Pynchon) and a very cleverly constructed plot: A psychiatrist discovers that his wife has been replaced with a doppelgänger claiming to be the real wife... so off he goes hunting for the real wife, whom he has reason to believe has fallen into the clutches of... a world-wide weather manipulation syndicate!? In the face of said bonkers plot, this is a mostly clever, sporadically funny novel that's as much about never really knowing your wife as... meteorology. Worth a read.
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Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I believe the author intended this book to be one of the sort that makes you think, and makes you question yourself, and what you are reading. Normally I like that in a novel, but in this instance I'm afraid I just found it irritating.

Dr Leo Liebenstein is a psychiatrist who believes his wife, Rema has been replaced by a doppelganger (or simulacrum as the author prefers to call it). As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly obvious that Leo is delusional, and despite his wife's best efforts, he simply cannot see that he is the one who has a problem. The story is complicated by Harvey, one of Leo's patients who believes he can control the weather, and that he works for the Royal Academy of Meteorology. Leo turns to the work of a dead meteorologist from the Academy in search of answers to what has happened to his wife.

Technically the story should be an interesting one - is Leo mad, or is there really a conspiracy going on? The trouble is, it doesn't take the reader long to sense that Leo is the one with the problem. Add to that the fact that Leo isn't a particularly likeable character anyway, and you have a recipe for a book that the reader is soon bored by. I found myself wondering how we were supposed to believe Rema's character would ever have fallen in love and married him in the first place, rather than caring about whether he ever worked out that she was actually his real wife.

It would have helped if there was a sense of progression in the plot, a feeling that Leo is changing as a character. Although he travels to Argentina (Rema's home country) there is little other action in the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious first novel
If 'Atmospheric Disturbances' is a sort of thriller, it is unabashedly a cerebral and metaphysical one. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Paul Bowes
2.0 out of 5 stars Quick Reviews!
I was drawn to this both by the Hitchcockian blurb and the reviewer comparisons to Murakami, but when you make comparisons to two of the greatest, chances are you're setting... Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2012 by carlosnightman
2.0 out of 5 stars AD - its okay
This is a bizare account of a descent into psychoticness and out of reality. This is all about a man who's wife is not his wife (she has a dog and his wife would never have a dog)... Read more
Published on 29 July 2011 by DDS
3.0 out of 5 stars I get the Murakami reference
I can totally understand the Murakami reference - there is a stylistic relationship, certainly to Wild Sheep Chase and Wind Up Bird Chronicle but where Murakami is satisfyingly... Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2011 by Richard Hammond
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable
There are quite a few negative reviews on here about this book, and I feel guilty for adding to the list.

I didn't read the whole book. Read more
Published on 20 Nov 2009 by C. Robson
3.0 out of 5 stars Doing my head in
A psychiatrist who's clearly mad is always a good start for a narrative - think Hitchcock's Spellbound. Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2008 by Alan Hansen
2.0 out of 5 stars echoes of Pynchon
A book that uses an echo to The crying of Lot 49 for me might either be an inspired move or a pretentious self-referential literary exercise. Read more
Published on 14 Nov 2008 by Mr. Nadim Bakhshov
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant unusual novel delving into the depths of mental illness
Leo one day discovers that his wife Rema has disappeared but has been replaced by her absolute double. Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2008 by P. Sharpe
1.0 out of 5 stars Overwritten
I feel slightly fraudulent reviewing this, as I haven't read the whole book. Unfortunately I found the overwritten prose style unreadable. Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2008 by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Mind bending
I know this is really shallow of me but the cover of this book just kept putting me off everytime I tried to pick it up, even so I persevered as I studied psychology and the... Read more
Published on 16 Oct 2008 by Clare
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