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Cartwheel [Hardcover]

Jennifer DuBois
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: £15.70
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Book Description

24 Sep 2013
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Slate • Salon • Cosmopolitan • BuzzFeed • BookPage

Written with the riveting storytelling of authors like Emma Donoghue, Adam Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together.

 
When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans.
 
Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves.
 
In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. No two readers will agree who Lily is and what happened to her roommate. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how well we really know ourselves will linger well beyond.
 
Praise for Cartwheel

“A smart, literary thriller [for] fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.”The Huffington Post
 
“Psychologically astute . . . DuBois hits [the] larger sadness just right and dispenses with all the salacious details you can readily find elsewhere. . . . The writing in Cartwheel is a pleasure—electric, fine-tuned, intelligent, conflicted. The novel is engrossing, and its portraiture hits delightfully and necessarily close to home.”The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
 
“Marvelous . . . a gripping tale . . . Every sentence crackles with wit and vision. Every page casts a spell.”—Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements

“[You’ll] break your own record of pages read per minute as you tear through this book.”Marie Claire
 
“Jennifer duBois is destined for great things.”Cosmopolitan

“A convincing, compelling tale . . . The story plays out in all its well-told complexity.”—New York Daily News

“[A] gripping, gorgeously written novel . . . The emotional intelligence in Cartwheel is so sharp it’s almost ruthless—a tabloid tragedy elevated to high art. [Grade:] A-”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“Sure-footed and psychologically calibrated . . . As the pages fly, the reader hardly notices that duBois has stretched the genre of the criminal procedural.”Newsday

“Provocative, meaningful and suspenseful.”Chicago Tribune

“[Jennifer duBois is] heir to some of the great novelists of the past, writers who caught the inner lives of their characters and rendered them on the page in beautiful, studied prose.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (24 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812995864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812995862
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.9 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 619,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By LondonS
Format:Hardcover
Like most people, I followed the infamous Amanda Knox trial in Italy as it happened and again as she won her appeal last year. And I'll probably watch a third time as they go back to court yet again. Even if you're only vaguely aware of the details surrounding the murder of Meredith Kercher, you'd be hard pressed not to find similarities between the Knox trial and Lily Hayes's case in Cartwheel, which is so similar it might as well be a fictional account of the trial in Perugia.

Cartwheel goes deeper than the headlines and into the mind and consciousness of Lily Hayes, suspected murderer, as well as those of the people around her, and offers up a story that simmers with tension and keeps you second guessing your perception of various characters all the way through. You'll finish the book with quite a few questions and I'll warn you now, Cartwheel will linger in your mind for a bit. I'm still mulling it over and thinking about it.

I wasn't sure if I liked Lily, the main character. I wanted to scream at her for her naļvete which, at the same time, I couldn't wholly believe in. Was Lily really that innocent of a girl or was she calculating and duplicitous, fooling even the reader? I still don't know.

duBois's novel rightfully deserves to be a pick for The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2013. I highly recommend it to just about anyone, particularly fans of fictionalised true crime - it doesn't get much better than this!
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2.0 out of 5 stars If you want fast pace and thrills give it a miss 17 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover
I have concluded that my book selection swayed by the PR was totally wrong. This is not the type of novel that I enjoy or even find interesting. Having read other reviews now I would still have made the same mistake. Jennifer DuBois must be very pleased with the feedback from readers but unfortunately I am not one of them. This book mysteriously forced me through to its end, whilst just giving me crumbs of hope that it may just turn the corner, and provide some excitement and entertainment.

Cartwheel was an odd name for this book and until this was explained, you could be forgiven for linking to the speed of an old wooden cart. The writing style may suit a lot of people who scan and don't actually read all the words, as it is crowded with a great excess of text that perhaps adds only a little to characters and atmosphere, but nothing for the overall story - it could have forty percent shorter and would have moved along more quickly.

Other reviewers have suggested Cartwheel is based on, or inspired by the Amanda Knox story, to me that sounds about right, as here we are several years on and we still don't know for sure who killed the victim. The characters painted by the author were all very troubled, in particular Sebastian who was a great irritation whilst reading, his language forcing you to stop and ponder what was actually said. This character could have been easily used to spice up the plot creating some exciting diversions for the reader.

If like me you like a fast paced exciting thriller my recommendation is give this a pass.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  120 reviews
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't grab me 6 Sep 2013
By M. Jacobsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I might be in the minority here, but I wasn't enthralled by this fictionalized version loosely based on the Amanda Knox case. Found the writing to be deliberately vague, as if the author was trying to be "artsy" but instead it left me impatient (just tell the story, darn it!). I never felt any connection or sympathy with any of the characters and ultimately didn't care what happened to any of them. Perhaps it was just not the right timing for me to read it (have you ever experienced that?)....I might give it a re-read in the future and see if it works better for me. Your mileage may vary.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cartwheels for the Brain: a Who-How-and-Why Dunnit 21 Nov 2013
By E. Burian-Mohr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Lily Hayes is a college student doing a semester abroad in Buenos Aires. She is living with the Carrizos and rooming with Katy Kellers, who Lily finds just a little too perfect and, as a result, a little too boring. Lily, on the other hand, has never behaved in the ways expected of her, and being in Buenos Aires, she sees no reason to change her ways. Even when it is pointed out to her that her behavior is inappropriate, it never occurs to Lily to apologize or change. This makes the housing situation difficult. Beatriz Carrizo, in an attempt to be a good exchange family, invites a neighbor to dinner one night: Sebastien LeCompte. Only Sebastien isn't the good ol' boy next door; he's the orphan of possible spies who died (or were killed) when he was in his teens. He lives in a cavernous old house, filled with treasures draped in sheets (including a bizarre photo of his father-son hunting adventure). Sebastien rarely leaves or does anything, and does his best to appear elusive and evasive.

Lily and Sebastien embark on a relationship, to the delight of no one except, perhaps, Sebastien. She also gets a job at a local bar, and continues to do whatever she pleases.

Except then Katy is found murdered, and Lily is the prime suspect. In fact, Lily's the only suspect. During her interrogation she declines counsel, behaves in her usually inappropriate ways, and does a cartwheel in the interview room. As her emails and photos are revealed to the population of Buenos Aires, Lily is seen more and more as an uncaring villain. Her alibi is weak and her actions inexplicable.

Her family arrives to help. Prosecuting attorney, Eduardo Campos interviews everyone he can find, not only to build a case against Lily, but to understand what happened, why, and how.

The book is told from the perspective of many, with many differing insights. Through Eduardo and everyone who has come into contact with Lily, Jennifer DuBois leads us through the days leading up to the murder, Lily's childhood, and various perceptions of the situation.

Sometimes, when reading a book as densely written as this, you wonder how the writer could have another book in them, because so many perceptions and insights about the world and life have been poured into this book. That is often the feeling here. DuBois' descriptions are vivid; her characters unique and well-drawn. The only thing missing is the clues to lead the reader to a solid conclusion.

The book was said to be inspired by the Amanda Knox case, and, as many commenters have noted, it includes a lot of what went on in the Amanda Knox case. I took it as "inspired by", rather than as a fictionalized account of the Amanda Knox case. This seems to be a sticking point for many readers. You'll probably like it better if you take it as an "inspired by" tale.

The other sticking point seems to be that none of us has been able to tie up the story with a neat bow. I was fine with it because it allowed me to ponder motivations and means further and, face it, in real life we rarely learn the whole truth. If it's going to make you crazy, this is perhaps not the book for you.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, but fatally compromised 1 Oct 2013
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I must be one of the few people in America not to know about the Amanda Knox case, except that she was tried for the murder of her roommate, a fellow exchange student at the University of Perugia. Which ought to have been helpful, since Jennifer Dubois writes: "Although the themes of this book were loosely inspired by the story of Amanda Knox, this is entirely a work of fiction." So I was prepared to enjoy, unfettered, a story about another American exchange student, Lily Hayes, arrested for a similar murder, only this time in Buenos Aires. I could see that the book was well written. I was looking forward to watch with interest as the facts emerged and theories unfolded, like a good detective story. And, as with a good novel, I looked forward to seeing the fictional Lily emerge as a real person in her own right. In the end, though, I was disappointed. I read with interest throughout, but felt that Dubois had not quite succeeded in balancing the detective aspects with the novelistic ones. More seriously, I felt she had been untrue to her stated intent: despite her intention of developing her imagined characters in her own way, the book kept taking turns that I felt arbitrary in terms of Lily Hayes, but which I later discovered were close parallels with Amanda Knox. The novel was a compromise between fact and fiction that ultimately did disservice to both.

Both novel and detective aspects get a strong showing in the opening chapters. The first has Lily's father, Andrew Hayes, a college professor, arrive in Buenos Aires with his younger daughter Anna; Maureen, Lily's mother, will arrive in a few days. It is a wonderful study in psychology, as they struggle to believe how the Lily they knew could ever be accused of such a thing; it also begins a journey deep into the Hayes family dynamics. All the stuff of a good novel, although Dubois also gets in a lot of necessary exposition about the alleged facts of the crime. The detective-story aspect comes to the fore in the second chapter, where we meet Eduardo Campos, the state prosecutor, meticulously sifting the evidence -- though there is a strong novelistic element even here, as we realize that part of Eduardo's fascination with Lily has to do with perceived similarities to his estranged wife, María. The novel moved into a higher gear for me at this point, and I looked forward to a kind of RASHOMON: different viewpoints on the central character, each seeing a different side of her, but keeping her core a mystery.

But no. Dubois tells an increasing amount of the story in flashback scenes featuring Lily herself. We learn of her excitement at coming to Buenos Aires, the flair and confidence that gets her a job as a waitress in an upscale bar, her failure to hit it off with her landlady, and her dismissive opinion of her roommate, the all-too-perfect Katy Kellers, "dullest of all possible humans, living at the precise center of all of the world's modest expectations for her, moving in confident strides toward the exact mean of her upper-middle-class life." Despite a sophomoric tendency to make such judgments, we come to like Lily, or at least to realize that she is by no means the affectless monster that she has been painted; she is very real. Dubois' point, I think, is that you can never really know anybody, and that even nice ordinary people can be capable of things you would never expect. To do this, she has to make Lily ordinary -- but in making her ordinary, she takes some of the steam out of her story. If the book moved into high gear whenever Eduardo Campos was onstage, it returned to cruise-control in the increasingly long sections with Lily. And whenever we came to Lily's boyfriend Sebastien Le Compte -- an effete, prodigiously rich, affected intellectual named surely after Sebastian in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, and totally unbelievable -- it ground down into the lowest possible gear, if not actually into reverse.

As it went on, I found myself reading less for character than to find out what happens. But I was disappointed in that regard. Things kept turning up out of left field that made little sense in the context of the story that Dubois was telling. One detail as illustration: the DNA evidence from the crime scene includes a tiny spot on Katy's bra strap. There is no indication of how they came to look for it, or how they found it, and nothing whatsoever conclusive is made of it. So why is it there? Reading about the Amanda Knox case after closing the novel, however, I find that fingerprints (not DNA) on the victim's bra clasp were a controversial element in the evidence there. So it is clear that Dubois put it in her book too because -- despite her initial disclaimer -- she wanted the factual parallels between the two. Her approach mattered most to me at the end, where the outcome of the trial, and even more the events that occur after the trial, seem inorganic and arbitrary in terms of the character portrait that Dubois has been building up, fully explicable only in terms of what actually happened in the case of Amanda Knox. So which are you doing, Ms. Dubois: writing a free-standing novel, or riffing on the Knox case? You can't do both. [3.4 stars]
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 12 Dec 2013
By Yolanda S. Bean - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
From the very beginning, the author openly acknowledges that this literary “thriller” is based on the real-life Amanda Knox case. Though I vaguely recall some news bulletins on the real case, it is actually the study abroad element to the story that initially drew me the novel. Lily Hayes leaves the northeastern U.S. for a semester in Buenos Aires. Along with another young woman, Katy Kellers from California, she lives with a host family. Told from various perspectives, duBois opens the novel with Lily in jail for the murder of her roommate. Her family arrives to see her and the remainder of the novel alternates between this present and the past events leading up to Lily’s incarceration.

At first, the slow pace gives the book a bit of a tantalizing quality - the reader feels anxious to learn just what happened to land this young woman in prison. But, as the book continues to drag on (and on!), with characters all totally self-absorbed and preoccupied with how their own intelligence is conveyed to others, it becomes more and more difficult to plod through the remainder of the novel. And the payout, ultimately, isn’t even worth it. Even the victim, the elusive Katy Kellers, loses any initial sympathy, when she begins to act in the same unlikable way as every other character in the story. It also seems odd that so many other perspectives are offered, but never Katy’s.

The book feels like it’s striving to be considered a literary thriller and is focused too much on the literary half of the equation. There is nothing thrilling about this. It is slow paced, and even illogical at times. The prosecuting attorney’s entire perspective adds nothing to the overall story and feels like filler. There are repetitive sections as the same memories come filtered through each point-of-view. The bits of Buenos Aires present add a nice touch, but even this setting isn’t fully developed. All in all, it’s a disappointing read with a rushed conclusion and completely unlikable, selfish characters.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Time wasted 30 Jan 2014
By Christine N. Alexander - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I cannot believe I read this entire depressing book and there was absolutely no conclusion to the story. The only character whose perspective really interested me was Lily and we don't get to hear from her anymore once she is arrested. I was bored to tears by anything having to do with the prosecuting attorney and his big WHO CARES of a relationship. And the father's perspective was slightly interesting until it became utterly repetitive. Deeply unsatisfying.
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