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C [Hardcover]

Tom McCarthy
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Sep 2010
C has been shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

The acclaimed author of Remainder, which Zadie Smith hailed as “one of the great English novels of the past ten years,”gives us his most spectacularly inventive novel yet.

Opening in England at the turn of the twentieth century, C is the story of a boy named Serge Carrefax, whose father spends his time experimenting with wireless communication while running a school for deaf children. Serge grows up amid the noise and silence with his brilliant but troubled older sister, Sophie: an intense sibling relationship that stays with him as he heads off into an equally troubled larger world.

After a fling with a nurse at a Bohemian spa, Serge serves in World War I as a radio operator for reconnaissance planes. When his plane is shot down, Serge is taken to a German prison camp, from which he escapes. Back in London, he’s recruited for a mission to Cairo on behalf of the shadowy Empire Wireless Chain. All of which eventually carries Serge to a fitful—and perhaps fateful—climax at the bottom of an Egyptian tomb . . .

Only a writer like Tom McCarthy could pull off a story with this effortless historical breadth, psychological insight, and postmodern originality.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group (7 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307593339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593337
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.9 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,404,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom McCarthy was born in 1969 and grew up in London. His creation, in 1999, of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a 'semi-fictitious organisation' that combines literature, art and philosophy, has led to publications, installations and exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world, from Tate Britain and the ICA in London to Moderna Museet in Stockholm and The Drawing Center in New York. Tom regularly writes on literature and art for publications including The New York Times, The London Review of Books and Artforum.

Product Description


"C inserts itself, slyly yet confidently, into the history of modernism. This is a genuinely exciting and spookily beautiful book, a new kind of joy" (Neel Mukherjee The Times)

"McCarthy is fast revealing himself as a master craftsman who is steering the contemporary novel towards exciting territories" (Observer)

"Skilfully realised, ambitious" (Christopher Taylor Guardian)

"An intelligent, ambitious book... A beautiful, accessible novel with a thrilling tale. This is one of the most brilliant books to have hit the shelves this year and McCarthy deserves high praise for an electric piece of writing which should be enjoyed as well as discussed" (Beth Jones Sunday Telegraph)

"C is formidably well assembled, and it is admirable for an unashamed literary ambition" (Peter Carty Independent on Sunday) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The author of 'one of the great English novels of the past ten years' moves to the next level, with a novel of thrilling action, imagination and ambition.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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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 Abstract patterns 4 Sep 2011
I have a very wide range of taste in literature - and this was a very different book. I have finished reading it and I have been left with the same feeling I get after looking at a Jackson Pollock painting(seriously)- there are patterns and colours and multiple structural layers within it - and it is impossible to take it all in - and therefore you concentrate on the overall impact - which is emotional as well as intellectual.

(Question - is it a spoiler to tell something if it is printed on the cover?)

As other reviewers point out, the book concerns the short and very intense life of Serge Carefax born at the end of the 19th centuary. It starts with his birth at a country house to a deaf mother (with an interest in mood altering drugs) and an eccentric inventor father who runs a school for the deaf. The family contains a rather brilliant but slightly disturbed elder sister Sophie who adds a very significant dimension to his childhood. The book looks at Serge at different times in his bizarre childhood, through a surreal health farm (reminiscent of Wellville), the horror of being a radio operator during the first world war (although he enjoyed it), a drug-fueled college period and an expedition to Egypt.

The book is very definitely dark and full of black humour. The writing is superb, but it is impossible to appreciate everything in one read - I think the book will be better at a second reading. So what strikes after a first reading is the patterns that are wound throughout it and the way they repeat and are pulled together in a fantastic workspace. The idea of a crowded space, full of the trace of transmissions from the very first one, a sense of connection, codes, patterns and repetition builds constantly through the book.
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97 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far more readable than I expected 4 Aug 2010
By Adam S
Having not read any of Tom McCarthy's previous works, but having read a number of newspaper reviews of this book, I expected to never want to read it. Christopher Taylor in the Guardian chose to highlight that "McCarthy speaks the language of post-humanism. His allegiance is to the French nouveau roman and post-structuralist modes of thought..." etc , so I'd already decided it was likely to be a pile of pretentious waffle. However, at a loose end in a bookshop a few days ago I picked it up, read the first few pages, realised my preconceptions were probably wide of the mark, bought it, took it home and read it in one sitting.

The first thing to note is that C is a very enjoyable read. The comic element comes through on nearly every page, and McCarthy's permanent style of `show' rather than `tell' means that you have that slightly smug satisfaction when you 'get' the obscure jokes. A lot of the jokes are pretty dark, and reading some of the chapters felt a bit like listening to an episode of Chris Morris's underrated radio series 'Blue Jam'.

And it's not just the comic element that works this way - McCarthy manages to pack the book with literary and artistic references, and only very occasionally does it feel forced. These references fall into three categories; the ones that the reader will spot and understand the reference (in my case, very few), the ones that the reader will spot and have no idea why it is being eluded to (quite a few), and the ones that the reader misses altogether (probably lots more). One could easily re-read this book three or four times and still only get a fraction of the references. It's like reading a good book and doing a cryptic crossword at the same time. Fun, if you like that sort of thing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Emperor's New Clothes? 9 July 2011
It looks like Tom McCarthy could be going the same way as David Mitchell - the first two novels being very good and something different but then changing track and writing something which feels hollow and contrived, as though they were trying too hard to bring post-modernism to the masses.

'C' has been critically lauded and described with many -ism type words (modernism, post-modernism and post-structuralism) some of which seem to contradict each other but people who liked his first two novels do not seem to like this one. Supposedly it takes the form of an intellectual game with the reader trying to spot references and allusions to other works and philosophies but is let down by the style of writing. Other novels which veer more towards works of art rather than traditional narrative are usually written in an interesting style, but 'C' has a flat writing style, reminiscent of many recent 'literary' works, which does not suit the, supposed, intellectualism of the work.

I had previously read and enjoyed 'Men in Space' and will probably read 'Remainder' but was disappointed by 'C'.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars SHOWING OFF v. NOVEL WRITING.
I read several of the Booker shortlist for that year. Why on God's earth did the judges put this on the shortlist? Read more
Published 4 months ago by bettyparry
2.0 out of 5 stars Hate to use the B word, but i was Bored
C by Tom McCarthy is a strange little book, I got it when it was on the Booker shortlist nearly 2 years ago now, and had several false start attempts with it before finally... Read more
Published 16 months ago by R. A. Davison
4.0 out of 5 stars anachronisms
I mostly enjoyed this book. Unlike many reviewers I was not put off by the 'emotional coldness' of the main character. Read more
Published 20 months ago by belnos
4.0 out of 5 stars Crawling with insects, signals and static
"C" is a strange and unique book, unlike anything else I've read.

I'm not sure how best to describe it - maybe a "life and times" of the main player, Serge Carrefax, a... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Secret Spi
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking Breadth Of Vision
"C" has been described as "experimental", "modernist" and even an "anti-novel" . I don't believe it is any of these at all, though it is fundamentally ambitious and... Read more
Published on 21 July 2012 by Genome
1.0 out of 5 stars C, indeed
I'm a visual person unfortunately, therefore I am immediately attracted to pretty covers (I know, I know: don't judge a book by its cover. I know). Read more
Published on 26 May 2012 by Poison-the-cure
1.0 out of 5 stars All Fur Coat And Nae Knickers
Just finished this but I have to admit I skipped through much of the last section because it was so contrived. Read more
Published on 15 May 2012 by White Tea
1.0 out of 5 stars C is for Codswallop
I have found that many contemporary novels have an amazing ability for flight. Don Delillo's works in particular are often capable of truly exceptional aeronautic displays. Read more
Published on 5 May 2012 by Thropplenoggin
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying too hard
Unfamiliar with McCarthy's other works, there was an over-riding sensation from start to finish that this writer was trying too hard. Read more
Published on 12 April 2012 by Mr. S. R. Wall
1.0 out of 5 stars a prize winner that left me cold
Pointless exercise in cleverness that seemed a terrible waste of valuable reading time. Glad it was a present rather than something I spent money on
Published on 8 Dec 2011 by A. L. Mills
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