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Caroline: A Mystery [Paperback]

Cornelius Medvei
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

5 July 2012
When Mr Shaw meets Caroline on his summer holiday she turns his world upside down. Caroline, whose eyes a man could drown in. Caroline, who likes a radish or two. Caroline, who is in fact a donkey. To the outrage of his neighbours and the bemusement of his wife, when Mr Shaw returns to the city he takes Caroline with him. She plays chess magnificently, charms his colleagues and, most importantly, Caroline re-awakens in Mr Shaw an appetite for life he thought he'd lost. But can this idyll last? Unfolding with the beauty and power of fable, Caroline depicts a glorious Indian summer in one man's life.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099548682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099548683
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.7 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 374,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A complete delight... Ancient myth meets daily grind, and the ordinary and the fantastic... are mingled everywhere you look" (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

"Delightful, unforgettable and splendidly peculiar" (Spectator)

"Medvei's prose is limpid and particular, telling the story with an exquisite control that interfuses the sublime and ridiculous in exact proportions, the one hidden inside the other... The result is pleasurable and profound. Medvei never puts a foot wrong" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Medvei's fable about the inexplicable nature of human passion unfolds with a gentle surrealism" (Financial Times)

"This absolutely engrossing tale is written with serene poise" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

When Mr Shaw meets the beguiling and enigmatic Caroline, she changes his life. But Caroline is a donkey, and their happiness is soon threatened.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet, but a little bizarre! 13 Feb 2011
By Jackie
This is a lovely little book! It begins as a simple, but engaging story about one man's bond with a donkey, but it slowly ventures away from reality, leaving you questioning what is true and what has just been invented by the author. It is very cleverly written and it took me a while to work out what was happening. The text is initially littered with fascinating facts about donkeys, but when I found myself wondering whether or not donkeys really can play chess I realised that I'd been had!

"The exhilarating novelty of playing chess with a donkey more than made up for the successive defeats, and Caroline was positively skittish when we finished; she butted Arthur playfully in the back as he was returning the chess pieces - marked faintly with the imprint of her teeth - to the box."

My only criticism is the word "Mystery" in large type on the cover. I picked this book up because I was in the mood for a bit of crime solving and so was a bit disappointed that I wasn't able to exercise my brain cells in that way.

This is a short, but sweet book that could charm even the grumpiest of souls. Anyone who knows me would point out that any book described as "charming" would normally send me running in the opposite direction, but for some reason Caroline didn't have that effect. I think that this was because the bizarre escapades of the impressively intelligent donkey entertained me in such an original way. I'm afraid I can't let you know any more about the plot for fear of ruining this lovely little book, but I hope that I have revealed enough to intrigue you.

I recommend it, especially as a gift to animal lovers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Song For A Father 5 Nov 2011
I found the author of this novel on the web site of his agency, Tavistock Wood. The author in the photograph on the site has the air of a scientist about him...or of a chess player, actually. I read the book in one go on a flight -- this is fine writing, considerate of its subject, or subjects, because hidden behind the tale of the man and his donkey, is a larger tale about fathers and sons, about family and even about the cities that surround us, through which we sleepwalk at times with surreal ideas on our minds not unlike the one that Medvei must've had before he penned this work, his second published novel.

I was thoroughly charmed by this book and I'm not easily charmed by other people's writing. It's also been a while since I read a novel from start to finish in one go - I think the last one was a stephen king, and this is as far from king as one can perhaps go, short of experimental fiction. Perhaps because of the special role that chess plays in this book, perhaps because of the calm, collected style of telling, I was reminded of Stefan Zweig's wonderful novella "The Royal Game". I also noticed some Russian sensibility between the pages and not only because Russia (via the subject of chess) makes a short appearance.

Here is an excerpt almost from the end of the book, which shows the fine story telling & which made me think of the last time I saw my own father before his sudden death: «Even his dress, which to the insensitive observer might have suggested an old man letting himself go (sweater gone at the elbows, bedsocks stuffed into galoshes, haphazardly shaven chin), seemed to me like nothing so much as a demonstration of the sage's magnificent disregard for external appearances.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Story 26 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a strange story, very short, which many readers will read through in a couple of hours or so as I did. It describes an obsession, or a love affair, depending which way you look at it, between a gentleman of an age where he is approaching retirement and a donkey called Caroline. When they meet it is a case of love at first sight, at least on the part of the gentleman. More difficult to define on Caroline's side as she is ever an enigmatic if extremely intelligent beast.

Caroline gradually becomes an integral part of the family's lives, although there is a little resentment on the part of the wife and son since the man is spending the greater part of his waking hours either in Caroline's company or in researching donkeys. Indeed his research notes crop up from time to time in the book. Under the circumstances his family are tolerant in the extreme. Within this story there is an almost seamless transition from Caroline behaving as we expect donkeys to behave and exhibiting behaviour that is not expected.

It is an interesting story, though I said at the outset, certainly rather strange. Hardly a page turner, the end leaves the reader with unresolved questions. Extremely humorous in places and poignant in others, but I am not sure it worked for me as well as I was expecting it to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars delightfully quirky 20 Nov 2013
By uncle barbar TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am always delighted to find a little gems such as this. So much fiction, these days, is formulaic that I sometimes feel quirky little books like this do not exist any more. I was happy to discover this one. I am not especially fond of donkeys but I did really love Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey, which made me laugh out loud on many occasions. It is dryly witty and unsentimental and is actually written by a guy in his 30s, so not a travel log by, for, or about an old fogey, which was my one fear. The grainy photos simply made me laugh - because they were so poor quality. I can only imagine they were reproduced to the author specifications for precisely this reason - or possibly to lend realism. Possibly, the author was hoping to add novelty to make up for the brevity of the book. Either away, I would certainly recommend this for anybody who enjoys a read which is off the beaten track. I will look out for more from this author. And if you enjoyed this, do consider Travels with a Donkey.Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes and the Amateur Emigrant (Penguin Classics)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great
As he nears retirement, Mr. Shaw the insurance broker goes on his summer holiday and falls for a creature with "eyes a man could drown in". Her name is Caroline. Read more
Published 3 months ago by xenofan
5.0 out of 5 stars I heart Caroline!
I am a massive animal lover and a massive lover of animals in books - Wolf Totem and Life of Pi are two of my all-time favourite books. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Boof
4.0 out of 5 stars Many facets of whimsy.
In writing this story, about an eccentric man and his increasingly donkey, I am reminded of the musicians of Bremen, where the donkey is the base of the story. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jack Chakotay
4.0 out of 5 stars The heartwarming tale of a man and his donkey
This a strange, offbeat, semi-comic, really rather charming novella about the obsessive, deepening bond of affection that forms between a man and a donkey names Caroline. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Andrew Sutherland
5.0 out of 5 stars Modestine, eat your heart out
I loved this book - I never thought that any other donkey would come close to Eeyore in my affections, but Caroline does so. Read more
Published 16 months ago by T. Russell
2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe I didn't get it?
I ordered this book primarily because I love donkeys and would like one of my own, so I thought that this book would be a bit like the book PYG (of course about a sentient,... Read more
Published 19 months ago by FLB
2.0 out of 5 stars Curate's Egg
This is a novella or a long short story. It is not possible to tell what country it is set in and I expect that has been done on purpose, it doesn't detract at all, just very... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Alec
4.0 out of 5 stars A WHIMSICAL DELIGHT
Why, at the funeral of Shaw's father, was no mention made of Caroline - she who so enhanced his later years? Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mr. D. L. Rees
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the easiest read, for me at least
This book is a work of fiction but is portrayed as a memoir about a man, just deceased, and his somewhat odd affections for a donkey called Caroline. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Tim Roast
5.0 out of 5 stars I Loved This Book!
Cornelius Medvei has created a rather bizarre world for this novel.

Mr Shaw is a partner in an insurance brokerage and he's approaching retirement. Read more
Published 21 months ago by T. Walker
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