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Cedilla [Hardcover]

Adam Mars-Jones
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Jan 2011

Cedilla continues the history of John Cromer begun by Pilcrow, described by the London Review of Books as "peculiar, original, utterly idiosyncratic" and by the Sunday Times as "truly exhilarating". These huge and sparkling books are particularly surprising coming from a writer of previously (let's be tactful) modest productivity, who had seemed stubbornly attached to small forms. Now the alleged miniaturist has rumbled into the literary traffic in his monster truck, and seems determined to overtake Proust's cork-lined limousine while it's stopped at the lights.

John Cromer is the weakest hero in literature -- unless he's one of the strongest. In Cedilla he launches himself into the wider world of mainstream education, and comes upon deeper joys, subtler setbacks. The tone and texture of the two books is similar, but their emotional worlds are very different. The slow unfolding of themes is perhaps closer to Indian classical music than the Western tradition -- raga/saga, anyone?

This isn't an epic novel as such things are normally understood, to be sure. It contains no physical battles and the bare minimum of travel, yet surely it qualifies. None of the reviews of Pilcrow explicitly compared it to a coral reef made of a billion tiny Crunchie bars, but that was the drift of opinion. Page by page, Cedilla too provides unfailing pleasure. It's the book you can read between meals without ruining your appetite.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (20 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571245366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571245369
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 6.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 586,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'The most original novel of the year ... The trilogy, when it is finished, will be a great novel about nothing much - and therefore everything.' -- Craig Raine, TLS Books of the Year >> 'Hard to resist... Boldly conceived and written with extraordinary verve and inventiveness... a wholly immersive experience.' -- Peter Parker, Sunday Times >> 'Mars-Jones is a writer of wonderful originality and wit, and the redoubtable John is superb company.' -- Kate Saunders, The Times >> 'We are clearly in the presence of a formidable talent operating at full strength ... There isn t a passage here that doesn t sparkle with some well-phrased perception, neatly overturned cliché or freshly minted pun... [Mars-Jones] has become over the course of three years one of the most industrious and accomplished novelists in Britain. -- Leo Robson, Daily Telegraph >> 'One of the most brilliant fictional projects of recent years.' -- Philip Hensher, Spectator >> 'Cedilla is nudged along... on a tide of ideas, jokes, esoterica, wordplay and vignettes, and it has much to charm the reader... One of the most original comic creations in recent fiction. You won't regret going along for the ride.' -- Alex Clark, Guardian >> 'Mars-Jones is undoubtedly a wonderful writer and in John he has created a fabulously idiosyncratic character.' --Melissa McClements, Financial Times

Book Description

The gloriously witty, hugely ambitious and compulsively readable novel from award-winning writer Adam Mars-Jones

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best novel being written 24 July 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Adam Mars-Jones is doing so many new things, and doing them so originally and sympathetically in his roman fleuve that I'd have no hesitation in describing the series of which this is the second part as the best novel being written in these years.
Nothing could be easier to read and less daunting than these vast volumes Pilcrow and Cedilla, because they are broken down into short witty almost self-contained mini-chapters, and because the self-obssessed hero (really one should call him a hero) is such an attractive voice.
The book has much to say about the cruelty and also the kindness that the disabled encounter, and the indomitability of the human character. It's funny and absorbing about the trivia of life and serious and questing about the meaning of life, and I, for one, could read any number of sequels. There are few enough writers whose next novel one actively looks forward to. Adam Mars-Jones's next novel will be as wonderful as this one is.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Permanently Baffled and Witty Observer 7 Oct 2012
By s k
Cedilla is an enormous novel and the second of a potential trilogy (possibly even a quartet). The reputation of Adam Mars-Jones the critic has previously eclipsed that of Adam Mars-Jones the novelist. This, however, was due to a lack of output. But, within the space of three years, Mars-Jones has delivered two novels of gigantic proportions and abilities. Taken together, Pilcrow and Cedilla come in at over 1300 pages, a substantial achievement that helps cancel the myth of literary procrastination. And it is no exaggeration to say that Cedilla is an absolute and stunning triumph.

As with Pilcrow, the reader follows the travails of John Cromer, one of the most intriguing and amusing characters in contemporary literature. In true Bildungsroman fashion, we follow this disabled and homosexual Hindu as he measures up to the vicissitudes of the 1960s-70s, an era in which his creator revels, the relentless contextual details conveying the period's numerous cultural advances. John, then, capturing the zeitgeist, seeks equality and looks to match the epoch's progressive drift. And so, much to his family's exasperation, he receives a 'normal' state education, learns to drive (a Mini), undertakes a pilgrimage to India in search of enlightenment, studies Modern Languages at Cambridge University, and then, ultimately, graduates into the arms of the Welfare system.

But it is Cromer's narrative voice, rather than these events, that attracts the reader's admiration. His interaction with the world is laced with cynicism and pedantry, the exquisite punning and linguistic fireworks ensuring that the prose is taut and no word is wasted. John may live life at a reduced pace but his writing fizzes with energy.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pilcrow 2 - This Time It's Longer 13 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Do not attempt this book if you haven't read "Pilcrow" by the same author, as "Cedilla" is a continuation of its predecessor. Additionally, if you didn't enjoy "Pilcrow", you'll hate this book as it is essentially more of the same but significantly longer.

Caveats over, what of the book?

At the end of "Pilcrow", our disabled narrator John Cromer was sixteen years old, and we had followed his progress through life, battling the effects of Still's Disease. "Cedilla" sees John preparing to go to university in its early stages before going on an unaccompanied trip to India, then returns home and his life begins to disintegrate in many ways.

As with "Pilcrow" not an awful lot happens, yet the book is strangely compelling. John is a strange character, both lovable yet incredibly irritating, hilarious but maudlin, and there are times when I felt little sympathy for him - particularly towards the end of the book - where it seemed the predicaments he found himself in were entirely of his own making. If you read "Pilcrow" and found John irritating there, you'll despise him in "Cedilla" as his character is altogether bigger this time around.

The writing is stunning from start to finish, beautifully detailed and constructed throughout, and if you love language this book is a real feast. Yes it is overlong, by a hundred pages or so, and for this reason alone I deduct a star.

Like "Pilcrow", "Cedilla" ends on something of a cliff-hanger, and John Cromer is apparently to return, making this series a trilogy. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long for his return.

The best book I've read so far this year, and hugely recommended - but make sure you read "Pilcrow" first.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Cromer - man-boy extraordinary. 6 Nov 2012
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is quite inexplicable that Adam Mars-Jones is a name not shouted from the roof-tops of the literary establishment. Has there ever been a more convincing narrational voice than that of John Cromer? I certainly can't think of one.

"There's so much poignancy in the state of trying to be a man, nothing remotely comparable about being one." And especially THIS man. Severely physically handicapped, mentally sharp as a tack, pedantic, infuriating, indomitable, endearing, a homosexual, a Buddhist...and piercingly funny. Here's a flavour of his humour: "I reached the point where I really didn't see how I could hold out much longer. I prayed for help - help sooner rather than later. Sri Bhagavan was the shape divinity took in my mind, but as I was back in England now, worse luck, it seemed a good idea to hedge my bets, so I prayed to my old friend Jesus Christ, and to God the Father as well. I didn't forget to add a dash of Allah to the cocktail of divine appeal. Desperation is a strongly oecumenical force."

You will have to read Pilcrow first. As other reviewers have commented, if you've read it and didn't like it, then you won't like Cedilla. But if that's the case, then it's highly unlikely you'll be bothering with this review. If you loved Pilcrow (and I don't think there's much middle ground here) you'll be reading Cedilla anyway and won't have need of any review.

This leaves me little to say that can be of value to the prospective reader other than the fact that Adam Mars-Jones's writing is staggeringly good and to urge you to catch up with Pilcrow. As regards Cedilla, I can't really put it any better than S.Kemp's eloquent review. So I would also urge you to read that to get a true flavour of this second instalment of the life and times of the extraordinary creation that is John Cromer.
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