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Either Side of Winter [Paperback]

Benjamin Markovits
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

18 Aug 2005
'The young American writer Benjamin Markovits has established himself as a formidable voice ... grandiose, vaunting, impressive ... the bastard son of Philip Roth and A.S.Byatt.' Jonathan Headwood, New Statesman Benjamin Markovits’ second novel takes place over the course of one year, shifting between uptown Manhattan and a private highschool campus in Riverdale. Either Side of Winter moves through a series of linked events and characters, season-by-season, in that richest of city-scapes. In Fall we see the tentative beginnings of an unlikely romance – between new schoolteacher Amy Bostick and a wealthy, drifting former graduate, Charles Conway. In Winter we hear the story of her colleague Howard Peasbody, whose brief fling with college mate Annie Rosenblum, produced, as he now learns, seventeen years too late, a daughter Francesca – the best friend of Rachel Krantz, whose relationships with her literature teacher, Stuart Englander, and her dying father Reuben, take us through Spring and Summer. Executed with exquisite sympathy, tenderness and emotional nuance, the four parts of Either Side of Winter come together to form a moving and elegiac picture of people whose lives are inextricably linked by circumstance, community – and a need to be loved. Touched by wry humour and the shades of Manhattan moods as we pass through the year, its achievement is to capture the city in microcosm through a series of remarkable portraits.


Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (18 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571226655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571226658
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,967,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'... the bastard son of Philip Roth and A. S. Byatt' New Statesman"

Book Description

A romantic novel set over four seasons in Manhattan and a high school campus between a group of friends. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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She cried in bed every night after turning the light off, unless Charles Conway was staying over, in which case she didn't feel any happier but didn't cry. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A future master begins to flex his muscles 30 Dec 2006
Format:Paperback
This is writing of the highest quality. These tales of everyday middle class urban life are sombre, minute, but leavened with a wry humour. The book excels above all in its exacting portrayal of distinct states of human psychology.

What I was left with: an utterly convincing portrait of what several very different people thought of themselves, in all its contradictory richness. And what they failed to see about themselves, too , and how these blind-spots and incapacities and insufficient knowledges ended up bringing people into certain relationships: sometimes together, sometimes drawn apart, always surprsingly yet convincingly portrayed.

On every page at least once there is a line to which this reader thought: "yes, that's exactly what it must be like."

HIghly recommended pscyhological writing. This writer will go on and on I think.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
In this bittersweet tale of shrewd self defense, daughters must deal with illusive fatherly love, spouses must deal with the betrayal of their loved ones, and children must cope with the death of those that are most dear to them. In Fathers and Daughters, children suffer the consequences of their parents' mismatched and inequitable love, and mothers and fathers make selfish judgments about their lives and about their children.
Structured around the four seasons, Fathers and Daughters contains four beautifully written and loosely connected stories that explore the boundaries of love, betrayal, commitment, and forgiveness. Cautionary and intimate, author Benjamin Markovits uses the collegiate setting, the civilized veneer of academia to weave an absolutely lovely tale of domestic life, involving danger, of secrets kept and revealed, and of desire and it's unforeseen consequences.
Spring centers on Amy Bostik. Amy has just moved to New York from suburban New Jersey, a self-confessed "daddy's girl," she has just landed a job at a prestigious college and his anxious to make a good impression. Amy has also started dating Charles, a wealthy young lawyer at a prestigious firm in Manhattan, a gentleman of "aristocratic affability."
Amy is initially swept away be the young man's charm, but the arrival of her family for Thanksgiving unleashes some new issues for her and she's torn between her loyalty for Charles and her love for her father, and her family. Amy has been given the preferences of love, the natural choice of affections, the darling of hearts, and the inheritor of her parents' dreams. This blessing forces her to ultimately question her budding love for Charles, because what counts for the family, what held it together runs" deeper than happiness.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad, but Glad to have read it 6 Sep 2005
Format:Paperback
I haven't read The Syme Papers and went straight for Either Side of Winter. Markovits' writing style takes the first quarter of the book to get used to - he has a love of comma's where none are neccessary, and for some his detail of the geography of NYC may bore or baffle, but I enjoyed the way he used real places in such a relatively small area to create a feeling of closeness. I'm sure some who read this book will grab a map of the Big Apple and actually follow with their fingers the walks and taxi-cab rides, find the restaraunts and 'holes in the wall' that Markovits's characters inhabit. This is a literary novel, so anyone wanting action should steer clear - most of what occurs occurs in the minds of the characters, most of whom are deeply insular and melancholy. Amy, the protagonist in the first story, has crying fits for no reason. Howard, protagonist in the second, suffers from a type of depression that pushes away all those who love him. His section is the least enjoyable, the reader finding it difficult to sympathise at all with his situation. Thus, most of the people in this book are a bit too sad, sad for no reason, and there's little respite. However, every one of Markovits's lines are deeply considered and intense, as if he has wrung the English language of any scope to waste, though I found a number of (large) paragraphs have to be re-read to fight the paradoxical ambiguity created by this. Give it a go!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad, gloomy American lives 9 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Regretfully there is nothing much to recommend in this novel, which is about a group of people who are mostly reasonably well-off, successful, industrialists, students or teachers, who live in the same area of New York. I say regretfully, because it is finely and painstakingly written.

A good many of the characters are variously, if tenuously, connected, Rachel is a student at the same college as Francesca, who is the daughter of a teacher, Howard, who is a colleague of Amy who teaches Biology, and Stuart who teaches English and Drama, etc., so they sometimes crop up in each other's stories. This novel takes episodes from these people's lives and follows them for a season, either side of a New York winter.

So far so good, but I have to say that the tone of the novel (by which I mean the register in which people's thoughts and voices are `heard' on the page), is unfailingly downbeat. Amy, for no reason that I can construe from the events depicted, cries herself to sleep every night, except when her rich, well-connected boyfriend (who is amiable and makes himself agreeable to her rather lower-class family) is staying over at her flat. Amy sets the scene. It doesn't get any better.

Let me assure you, there are lots of insights into people's thoughts, feelings and opinions, but everything is nebulous, nothing is defined, especially, it seems to me, to the author's satisfaction as clause after clause of sentence after sentence, tries to say something profound or explanatory, and fails. Each person seems locked in his or her own little compartment, wondering why they aren't better-liked, loved or wanted by the other unlikeable people around them.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I have been going over old memories." 26 Nov 2005
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In four seasonal, connected stories, Markovitz dissects the internal lives of his four protagonists, connected by the threads of family, occupation and acquaintance, revealing the subtleties of complicated father-daughter relationships and the way people maneuver around private prejudices and selfish mistakes. Amy Bostick ("Fall") is in New York for a teaching position after four years of college; she feels that her father is sending her out to live the life he failed to experience; only forty-seven, he has begun a slide into middle age, with false teeth, thinning hair and a growing paunch. As her younger brother achieves his own belated successes, Amy senses her pride of place slipping, her life a footnote rather than the center of attention. When her family comes to New York for Thanksgiving, Amy anticipates sharing the old with the new, only to learn that expectations breed regret.

When Howard Peasbody ("Winter") discovers he has a daughter by a woman from years before, he is astounded. Thoroughly gay, his younger lover ensconced at home, Howard thought only to meet this old flame and reminisce. As she speaks, Howard reassesses his response to her news, considering how he has manipulated facts to fit his take on the world, creating a comfort zone that is possibly unrealistic, "it occurred to him once more that he might be looking through a distorted lens". Practicing "the indifference of control", Howard reasserts his will, hoping to retreat from this potential vulnerability. His self-deception conceals an astonishing amount of self-destruction, his cold heart seeping like ice to separate him from his feelings.

Stuart Englander ("Spring"), another teacher, has reached a plateau where everything is hopelessly banal but for his students, one in particular. Fascinated by the brown-haired Rachel Kranz, Stuart's early morning imagination is fixated involuntarily on her, his wife's bulk sleeping beside him. The marriage, retaining little animation, balances on intuition: "Childlessness had kept them childish". Occasional tears reduce Stuart to what is left of his "mineral bitterness", awakened by spring only to be confronted by his own failures. "Summer" features Rachel Kranz, the object of Stuart's desire, who has her own problems, caught in her parents' divorce, forming a self image that collapses with each new doubt. Coming to terms with a loss that will alter everything familiar, albeit troubling or distasteful, Rachel is desperate for comfort before being thrust into an indifferent world.

Markovitz's characters are full of the slight, brittle judgments we all make but keep to ourselves and it is this poignancy that resonates through the stories, each season a revelation. Precisely drawn, revealing the barest slices of their lives, these people are exposed to the marrow, blindsided by their flaws: Given the choice "he wouldn't have chosen her. So this was the stuff he was made of." While these characters are, for the most part, unlikable, they remain utterly fascinating, thanks to the author's talent for shaping their universally human flaws. Grounded in academia, the protagonists are both victims and beneficiaries of their intellects, yearning and self-defeating, on the cusp of change but beyond ambitious gestures. Luan Gaines/ 2005.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prose at its best 29 Dec 2009
By C. E. Selby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is not a novel (or series of four stories) for the casual reader. I cannot add more about the content of the novel than what is so well stated in the first review (above). But I would like to make a suggestion to the reader who might find the first pages difficult to get into. Read it aloud to catch the subtle syntax. Don't let Mr. Markovits' elaborated sentences put you off until you tune your ear to the artistry of his brilliant prose. These are brilliantly conceived characters, delicately handled.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Vain effort 13 Feb 2006
By Olna - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It is easy to assign quite a few positive literary judgements to Markovits' novel: the text is carefully constructed, the author is well-read, the images are well-chosen and so on. Still, he doesn't manage to captivate neither the reader nor his imagination. The points Markovits has to make are not trivial, but they aren't new either. As a consequence, the whole text appears to be a literary "etude" rather than a work of art.

The characters are passed on from chapter to chapter - each a short story in itself. The spotlights from each form the "whole picture" in the end. But due to the novel's fine but rather artificial construction, the detail spent on character description is finally lost: all is artifice without live.

Through Markovits' need for controlling his characters as well as his style, the whole text seems strangely out-of-date, as if he had written it along the rules set down in a creative-writing-guide from the fifties.
5.0 out of 5 stars searching for happiness 16 Sep 2006
By Aurora - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This novel--really a series of interlinking short stories--shows both why we keep searching for happiness and how difficult it is to achieve. The guy in the Times called it Flaubertian, and for once, I don't think the term was used irresponsibly. Markovits has a lyric eye for the everyday detail that brings description to life, making Fathers and Daughters every bit as thrilling as more obviously plot-driven books.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The changes in us awaken outgrown uncertainties" 16 Jan 2006
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In this bittersweet tale of shrewd self defense, daughters must deal with illusive fatherly love, spouses must deal with the betrayal of their loved ones, and children must cope with the death of those that are most dear to them. In Fathers and Daughters, children suffer the consequences of their parents' mismatched and inequitable love, and mothers and fathers make selfish judgments about their lives and about their children.

Structured around the four seasons, Fathers and Daughters contains four beautifully written and loosely connected stories that explore the boundaries of love, betrayal, commitment, and forgiveness. Cautionary and intimate, author Benjamin Markovits uses the collegiate setting, the civilized veneer of academia to weave an absolutely lovely tale of domestic life, involving danger, of secrets kept and revealed, and of desire and it's unforeseen consequences.

Spring centers on Amy Bostik. Amy has just moved to New York from suburban New Jersey, a self-confessed "daddy's girl," she has just landed a job at a prestigious college and his anxious to make a good impression. Amy has also started dating Charles, a wealthy young lawyer at a prestigious firm in Manhattan, a gentleman of "aristocratic affability."

Amy is initially swept away be the young man's charm, but the arrival of her family for Thanksgiving unleashes some new issues for her and she's torn between her loyalty for Charles and her love for her father, and her family. Amy has been given the preferences of love, the natural choice of affections, the darling of hearts, and the inheritor of her parents' dreams. This blessing forces her to ultimately question her budding love for Charles, because what counts for the family, what held it together runs" deeper than happiness."

Meanwhile, it has become winter and Howard Peasbody, a teacher at Amy's college, is terribly unhappy. Whilst he begins to question his long-term relationship with Tomas, his German boyfriend, a woman suddenly visits him from the past. Apparently, he once fathered a child. Meeting his now grown daughter forces him not only to confront Tomas, but also to reevaluate his place in the world.

With his air of patient irony, Howard has come to the point he can no longer hide the fact of his unhappiness, the profound depth of it. Perhaps then, the discovery of his new family might give him a second chance to make something other than solitude out of his life, living as he has "so deeply of his memories."

Stuart Englander is Howard's teaching colleague. When Stuart learns that a friend has run off with a student of his, he also begins to question his own stultifying marriage, "a marriage that depended not only on shared tastes but on their ability to guess the discrepancies." Stuart starts to fantasize about Rachel Kranz, an attractive and wealthy young girl who is currently a student in his class.

Spring seems to have awakened dormant desires within Stuart, and although Rachel is not that talented and seems to be struggling, the ageing professor steadily becomes more besotted with her. Stuart confesses that he has lived most of his life in books, "though he for his part had been content to stop short at their pages." Rachel's point of view is presented in summer; she's just found out that her father is dying, and now she must navigate the murky waters of her bickering parents. She eventually comes to Stuart, using her stunning beauty to wile him, but also to get him to act as a type of confessional.

All the characters are bound by their past, and the choices they have made. Family bonds are important, fathers and daughters often relying on other people to supply them with the usual human furniture - anger and love. Amy is ultimately ambivalent about Charles, and hopes she hasn't fractured her relationship with her dad; Howard has learned to break the bonds of his relationship with Tomas and has been forced to grow up; and Stuart has learned to feel desire again, whilst also trying to keep his love for his wife intact; Rachel, who makes up this odd quartet, she herself with the sickly father and a self-obsessed mother, has perhaps ultimately become a seeker of truth.

Hughes has written a poignant and powerful tale, full of richly drawn characters, mired in vanity, hunger, and grief. He exposes the inner lives of his characters with all their flaws and failings, "a great score of emotional fuel, burning inward and building up warmth." Marvovit's prose is complex, insightful, and deeply empathetic, and every decision that the author makes, shows his great command of the fictional art, a deep personal intuitiveness and contemplation. Mike Leonard January 06.
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