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Disquiet [Hardcover]

Julia Leigh
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 8.48 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 May 2008
Accompanied by two young children, Olivia has left a violent marriage and returned to her childhood home, an austere chateau surrounded by formal gardens. She considers herself to be already 'murdered', dead before dying. At the same time as this unannounced homecoming another couple are expected at the chateau: her brother Marcus and his wife Sophie are due back from the hospital with their newborn. In this brittle world of emotional control everyone tries to hold themselves together as a tragic secret pushes them towards breaking point . . . A darkly mesmerising tale, Disquiet is disturbing, atmospheric, subtle and quite brilliant.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241015324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571239993
  • ASIN: 0571239994
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 13.4 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,260,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

?A powerful and disquieting novella, a work of fiction so infused with the practices of film that, while each scene is fully and even vividly realized in words, it also translates quite naturally into film, into a visually rich action taking place before the inner eye.? ?J. M. Coetzee, Nobel Prize-winning author of "Disgrace" ?This is a writer with terrifying control of the dreamscape. And, yes, those are the ones to watch out for.? ? "The Los Angeles Times" ?Ian McEwan's Atonement comes to mind?but Leigh has a hypnotic power all her own.? ?"People" ?Hypnotic?Leigh sustains the tension between life and death until the very end. It's difficult to imagine a reader who will not be electrified by this haunting, masterfully told story. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine a reader who will not be changed by it.? ? "Kirkus Reviews" (starred review) ?Artfully fulfilling the promise ? or threat ? of its title, the tale exudes a chill moonlight beaut

Book Description

A shocking tale of the unexpected from a hugely acclaimed literary author.


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Customer Reviews

2.3 out of 5 stars
2.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Craptacular 18 Aug 2009
By Sam Quixote TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
A single mum arrives on the doorstep of a gothic mansion with her two young children in tow. She's exhausted and so will you be before the book's finished. The woman's brother's wife has given birth prematurely to a stillborn child which she still carries around with her in a blanket as if it's alive. The family gathers, sees this and is, duh, unsettled. Eventually they confront the grieving couple and the stillborn child is buried. The end.

It's a quick read, more like a novella, but boy is it dull. "Feelings" explored ambiguously (quotation marks because I never believed they were genuine), none of the characters are memorable, the dialogue I don't remember. An utterly forgettable book with something of a non-story with rubbish characters. Completely dull, give it a miss. A better gothic novel - "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" by Shirley Jackson.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stripped, spare and tightly controlled 22 Oct 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Disquiet is short (121pp), very stripped, spare and tightly controlled. There is very little that might be said to involve the inside of people's heads. Only the last sentence of the book does this - in a final, utterly mesmerising way. Instead, we view people from the point of view of their actions, although sometimes we glimpse motivation, and because of the distance the writer preserves from the reader, this is all the more telling and true. This is tremendously skilled writing of a totally compelling nature. You will indeed feel disquiet, and the emotional impact is all the stronger because of a lack of the mess the inside of anyone's head makes of trauma. This distancing technique might not work in another kind of novel, but it works brilliantly in this one.

Olivia has left a horrifically abusive marriage and fled home to her mother's French chateau with her two children and as the novel opens her brother Marcus is about to bring his wife Sophie home with their new baby. What happens next skewers you to the page with agonising compulsion.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed 14 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover
I agree with the previous review. The prose was great but I kept waiting for the storyline to start. I was anxious to establish a relationship with the characters but I couldn't get enough detail and wasn't able to identify with them. I continuously flipped to the last page of the book thinking that it can't be coming already and when it came an hour later...I felt a bit cheated.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A- 2 Dec 2008
By Lauren Magnussen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Julia Leigh's novella is a series of glimpses into the lives of a family haunted by secrets both past and present. It is a nouveau-gothic tale that has the tone of an old horror story but has elements of modern living (a dead baby is stored in a state-of-the-art freezer). Nothing is ever fully explained, and the author skillfully tells a story almost solely through visuals. There is little dialogue, and when it occurs it is terse and gives away nothing. What we see is a carefully chosen selection of images designed to unsettle and put the reader on alert. But this alert is never fully realized, so that the denouement comes off as a bit of a letdown. There is a sense of a parallel universe, that the characters exist on a plateau that is slightly off-kilter to ours. Nothing truly scary happens, but the little things - a still lake, a shed with old canoes, a high heel used to crush a phone jack - build into a frenzy of beautiful lyricism and will leave the reader feeling haunted for days. Indeed, every image conveyed by Leigh is designed to keep itself stored in the memories of the reader, so that this novella will never quite go away. The prose is wonderfully rich, and the characters leap off the page, fully-formed in just a mere 120 pages. Disquiet tells a simple story that has a slight plot, but it pulls its weight in highly developed atmosphere and the author clearly has a gift for story-telling.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully atmospheric 9 Dec 2008
By ben - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I disagree very strongly with the single, negative reviewer of this book posted up on this site -- actually, it is the only non-glowing review of this marvellous little tale that i have come across online. And i looked at a dozen or more reviews. (Leigh is a widely admired author whose fans include Toni Morrison, Simon Schama, and others). Leigh's latest novella is a beautifully written and marvellously atmospheric story whose central theme, for me at least, is the loss of loved ones--the loss of a partner, the loss of a parent, and perhaps most distressingly here, the loss of a child. Everyone we meet in this book has lost something or someone. But in Leigh's deft and unsentimental authorial hands this powerful material is far more deeply psychological than sad, more alluringly gothic-strange than expository as a series of ever more bizarre events unfold during an impromptu gathering of family at an old chataeu --a dead baby is stored in a freezer; an unidentified man continuouslly calls on the phone, and a woman watches indifferently as a pair of children seem ready to drown in a pond. The prose is rich, lyrical and spare, making the subject matter even more haunting and the characters even more memorable. Leigh is smart and easily talented enough as a writer to be able to brilliantly hold everything in suspense for the reader, with the dark tension beckoning you onward. This is a clever, engaging and marvellously evocative book which makes you feel like you are there, in this place, watching her well-drawn characters interact. I cannot recall a book in recent times in which the imagery is so vivid.
Ben
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Craptacular 17 May 2010
By Sam Quixote - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Spoilers

A single mum arrives on the doorstep of a gothic mansion with her two young children in tow. She's exhausted and so will you be before the book's finished. The woman's brother's wife has given birth prematurely to a stillborn child which she still carries around with her in a blanket as if it's alive. The family gathers, sees this and is, duh, unsettled. Eventually they confront the grieving couple and the stillborn child is buried. The end.

It's a quick read, more like a novella, but boy is it dull. "Feelings" explored ambiguously (quotation marks because I never believed they were genuine), none of the characters are memorable, the dialogue I don't remember. An utterly forgettable book with something of a non-story with rubbish characters. Completely dull, give it a miss. A better gothic novel - "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" by Shirley Jackson.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing and a vague story - 3.5 2 Aug 2009
By Biblibio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The subtitle of "Disquiet" - "a story" - is the most accurate way to describe this little book. Small in all senses of the word, "Disquiet" presents little more than a short story of a situation. It is a book beautifully written, careful in progression and ultimately dark and eerie. Enjoyable, almost. It's hard not to get sucked into the read and emerge not long afterwards from the dark gloom that surrounds its well-crafted words.

But "Disquiet" faces a number of issues that are hard to overcome. Take, for instance, the fact that the book lacks any discernible plot. That might be okay, were the characters fully and richly developed, but they are not. Even at the end, they remain sketches - broad, intriguing sketches yes - but lack a sense of depth to them. The story as well. From beginning to end, it progresses almost "lightly", as though any quick movement will unsettle everything. It is partly due to that beautiful writing - the characters often speak rather stiffly, as though they're not sure what language they're speaking.

The first half of this small book was excellent. It felt like a good set-up for further development: first describe the situation beautifully and then delve slowly slowly into the heavier intricacies of the characters' lives. Instead, the ending is interesting, slightly unsettling, but not wholly satisfying. The vagueness, so appealing at first, begins to sounds repetitive and slightly worn and though the last two scenes cause the reader to sympathize deeply with the characters, the book ends abruptly, once again vague and confusing.

Ultimately, it is not an enjoyable, cheerful read. It's a curious, dark story, one that I'm glad I read, beautifully written and very much about the atmosphere and the overall feel. While some books can survive on general impressions alone, this slim book succeeds only partly. I recommend reading it, because it is quite interesting, raising a few disturbing questions I'd never thought to ask myself before, but am not certain it deserves to be purchased, particularly not when it costs the same as a standard paperback and is only 100 pages. As interesting and well written of a book as this is, I cannot recommend this book as a purchase and instead urge readers to seek this out in the library. 3.5 stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Face Full Of Horrified Wonder 15 July 2009
By J. A. Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This slim volume is the perfect book to choose for a sunny afternoon, when you have an hour or two free and you're feeling all's well with the world, but you'd rather be disturbed, perturbed and disquieted. Something is amiss right at the beginning when Olivia (called "the woman") arrives at her Mother's gate and rather than ring the buzzer or just wait around 'til she can get one of the gardeners attention, opts to let her son bruise himself bloody by ramming a secret gate with his body. (Olivia has kept the key to this gate for 12 years; a gate she once used to sneak in and out of the estate during her formative years.) Olivia's body, too, we come to learn, has been rammed bloody by her husband (she refers to him as her murderer) back in Australia. Olivia's role models had been her mother, (probably a permissive parent) now an old, frail woman who dotes on two cats, and Ida the housekeeper ("the authoritarian") who brought to mind the housekeeper in DeMaurier's Rebecca. The characters now residing in the chateau are eccentric decision makers. Marcus, Olivia's brother, copes by having private cell phone conversations with his mistress. His wife, Sophia, is allowed to carry the decaying corpse of their infant around. The unresolved question as to how the baby died loiters about: stillborn or murdered by Marcus? Ice cream and other perishables are removed from the freezer so that the infant may reside there each night. Grandmother permits her cats to eat chicken on her priceless Persian carpets where the dessicated, decaying bones are allowed to remain scattered about her private, secured apartment within the chateau. A pretty flower arrangement is dessicated because there isn't any water in the vase. (Or, perhaps it is an artifical arrangement -- this is one of the many hazy areas where the reader is left to wonder what the writer is putting forth.) Olivia, motivated by the need to save her children from drowning, swims (although we are told earlier that she does not swim) in the icy water even though she has a broken arm. During her swim she daydreams about how the villagers and their children would have faces full of horrified wonder if she survived and her children did not. This is a curious story which the author has imbued with disquiet. I would like very much to know what motivated her to choose this subject and carry it through so well. Did she stumble upon Pessoa's Book of Disquiet at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris? Did she read Remnick and Finder's Disquiet Please? I highly recommend Disquiet for a reading group who enjoys the Gothic genre as there are many unresolved questions and plenty of rich imagery for discussion.
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