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Falling Sideways Paperback – 8 Nov 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (8 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408822016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408822012
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 596,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A fascinating account of the backstabbing and time-serving which take place in the Tank, a globally successful Danish firm ... Surprisingly touching ... Kennedy offers a welcome, if tentative, message of hope (Michael Arditti, Daily Mail)

The finest novel I have read in many years ... immensely compelling and beautifully written (Alain de Botton)

This witty, dark, Franzen- style tale of a downsizing company features backstabbing execs who betray each other and their own families ... One for anyone who has ever had a job they hate (Viv Groskop, Red)

Falling Sideways is that rarest of commodities in American literary fiction, a novel about men and women at work; it is part satire and part drama, and it is very smart (Washington Post)

A quietly impressive novel that has much to say about the way we live and work now (Ben Felsenburg, Metro)

Kennedy gives us the complacency, the envy, the flirtations and the sycophantic laughter that will be familiar to anyone who has worked beneath strip-lighting ... touches on the contemporary moment with a deft precision. The fear of losing one's job, the rejection of the corporate world by the young and the treatment of immigrants by different generations are all of the utmost timeliness (Financial Times)

Book Description

A painfully funny and touching story of work, family and everything in between

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Jan 2013
Format: Paperback
Expecting this to be a sharp story about internecine office politics, the reader instead gets an odd bric-a-brac of a book. Ostensibly, the story is about a Copenhagen corporation known as the Tank which is forced to downsize and the impact the restructuring has on the lives of the characters and their families.

In the opening chapters, we visit each of the key protagonists as they rise in the morning and prepare to face the day. The author, Thomas E. Kennedy, is a sixty-something American who has lived in Denmark for decades; ditto the main character, Frederick Braithwaite. Braithwaite is a high-earning company man who finds himself facing an uncertain future and peering into the past with an increasingly melancholy eye. Other characters come straight from the box marked `clichéd office personnel' and include a ruthless CEO, a sex-mad subordinate, an unhappy female executive as well as various alienated offspring. These people are impossible to warm to and the author fails to make us care about what happens to them.

Sometimes there is an uncomfortable linguistic clash and the awkward insertion of a word translated. The author uses a great many adjectives and a great deal of unpleasant language. All this became wearing though one could live with it. But Kennedy's occasional forays into the bulky (or otherwise) contents of the characters' toilet bowls were not so easy to stomach and I'm afraid to say the book fell sideways before the end.

I should also point out to prospective readers that the type in this paperback edition is very small.

Two memorable and highly recommended alternative reads around the theme of office politics are Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris and Bombardiers by Po Bronson.
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By vizog on 22 Oct 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A lot of fun and detail about business men and their family lives breaking down around them. The language is an interesting part of the text comparing English French and Danish at length at one point. This gave me new insights into the way language affects culture, but it was all lightly done, not lecturing or hectoring the reader in any way. I had so enjoyed Kennedy's In the Company of Angels more concerned with those on the edges of society - old people, damaged personas, and attitudes to newcomers - but both books lead the reader effortlessly to think about the individual as a part of the group and how individuals' needs are not always understood , or met by even those closest to them.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 7 Mar 2011
Format: Hardcover
In the second novel of the Copenhagen Quartet to be published in the US, American expatriate Thomas E. Kennedy shows his immense versatility, writing a totally different kind of novel from In The Company of Angels (2010), the first novel of the quartet. In The Company of Angels , is a powerfully dramatic story of a man who suffered several years of torture under Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile before arriving, physically and emotionally ravaged, at a Copenhagen rehabilitation facility which treats victims of political torture. In this new novel, Kennedy provides a vision of a totally different side of Copenhagen in a totally different style of writing, broadening his overall themes and his depiction of this city. Here he focuses on the business world of one company, establishing a set of characters whose business and personal lives become so intertwined that the characters fail to grow or even recognize who they really are.

In fifty-three individual episodes, the most important main characters, who illustrate business stereotypes, gradually come to see the limitations of their lives, and some even prepare to make changes. Ultimately, these characters deal with the themes of love and death, freedom and confinement, and the worldly and the spiritual, though for several of them the emphasis here is primarily on the worldly. Copenhagen itself becomes the equivalent of a character here, too, as it continues to reveal itself ever more fully as a vibrant force, for better or worse, in the personal lives of its residents. Over the course of one week in autumn, three businessmen from "the Tank" and their families reveal their dependence upon their business environment--in addition to their own intellectual and spiritual ignorance and emotional vacuums.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"It's hard to be alone and hard to love and to really love is the hardest thing we have to do, and the most important thing." 7 Mar 2011
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In the second novel of the Copenhagen Quartet to be published in the US, American expatriate Thomas E. Kennedy shows his immense versatility, writing a totally different kind of novel from In The Company of Angels (2010), the first novel of the quartet. In The Company of Angels is a powerfully dramatic story of a man who suffered several years of torture under Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile before arriving, physically and emotionally ravaged, at a Copenhagen rehabilitation facility which treats victims of political torture. In this new novel, Kennedy provides a vision of a totally different side of Copenhagen in a totally different style of writing, broadening his overall themes and his depiction of this city. Here he focuses on the business world of one company, establishing a set of characters whose business and personal lives become so intertwined that the characters fail to grow or even recognize who they really are.

In fifty-three individual episodes, the most important main characters, who illustrate business stereotypes, gradually come to see the limitations of their lives, and some even prepare to make changes. Ultimately, these characters deal with the themes of love and death, freedom and confinement, and the worldly and the spiritual, though for several of them the emphasis here is primarily on the worldly. Copenhagen itself becomes the equivalent of a character here, too, as it continues to reveal itself ever more fully as a vibrant force, for better or worse, in the personal lives of its residents. Over the course of one week in autumn, three businessmen from "the Tank" and their families reveal their dependence upon their business environment--in addition to their own intellectual and spiritual ignorance and emotional vacuums.

It is not until they are forced to confront issues of who they really are and where they are going that some of them begin to grow beyond their stereotypical behavior to become interesting individuals struggling with life's realities. Among the main characters, is Frederick Breathwaite, an American in his fifties, who has been the public face of the Tank for years. He has a devoted wife and a bright twenty-one-year-old son Jes, who has given up college to work at a shop that makes keys and repairs shoes. Harald Jaeger, divorced from an angry wife, is a serial philanderer who has recently received a promotion to a high management position. Martin Kampman, the Tank's CEO, has been hired to "clean house" and reduce expenses by firing long-term employees, which he proceeds to do. He is the father of Adam Kampman, an alienated seventeen-year-old who finds that he has more in common with the non-conforming Jes Breathwaite and his counterculture life than he has with his parents. As these characters interact, they raise questions of honesty and ethics, the need for self-realization, the importance of the spiritual (through religion, philosophy, and literature), and most of all, the importance of true love.

Filled with observations about particular places and institutions in Copenhagen, the novel is laden with a variety of symbols and motifs--from literature, art (especially sculpture), jazz, the seasons, the spectre of death, and even a ubiquitous sausage cart. Major themes flit in, out, and through of the lives of characters, who do not always recognize their importance. Kennedy has written an unusual book with multiple main characters, none of whom, at the beginning of the novel, are self-aware or unique. As the themes unfold, however, some of these characters grow and escape their own limitations, becoming more human and less self-centered, and giving the novel a lasting thematic resonance. Mary Whipple

In the Company of Angels: A Novel
Good read 23 April 2014
By Barbara Ames - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a little difficult for me to get through in the first several chapters but it was so well written that I really couldn't put it down. It's always nice when love wins out in the end.
Another Great Entry from Kennedy 12 July 2013
By BassoProfundo - Published on Amazon.com
In an elegant portrayal of generational conflict in a few select families, Thomas E. Kennedy focuses on the tortured internal dialogs of a few stressed individuals to exceptional effect in "Falling Sideways." Mr. Kennedy's writing here is so forceful and affecting, I had despaired of any kind of heartening or life-affirming ending - but the ending surprised me quite a lot. It's a fulfilling, lustrous conclusion to a book full of sad truths, all perfectly observed and rendered.

Fred Breathwaite, American expatriate, lives and works in Copenhagen, and frets about his 22 year-old son. He has a suddenly prickly relationship with the CEO of the think tank where he has worked for 27 years (the CEO being one of the most loathsome characters I have encountered in any recent fiction). Fred's son Jes was blessed with a quick mind and has loads of potential, if only he would try to realize some of it. A second father-son narrative parallels that of the Breathwaites, this one containing the story of the loathsome CEO, Martin Kampman, and his son, Adam. Mr. Kennedy treats us to a high-relief contrast with these two stories, and they begin to intersect in the younger generation, with some very telling results. Other characters receive due exposure: the charlatan, skirt-chasing middle manager, the dignified, unbowed au pair girl, the lonely and lovely finance executive who has a brief fling.

None of these characters evokes our sympathy very much, and Mr. Kennedy shows us the fear and arrogance, and toadyism, and paranoia rampant in this modern corporate culture. The fraught internal dialogs power the narrative and Mr. Kennedy flashes his brilliance by so utterly changing the tone and process from one character to the next. This, and the surprising, almost deus ex machina-type ending make "Falling Sideways" a highly worthwhile read.
Another Great Novel from Thomas Kennedy 6 Jun 2013
By H. F. Corbin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Thomas E. Kennedy's FALLING SIDEWAYS, the second novel of his COPENHAGEN QUARTET to be published in the U. S., made me happy that the next book in the series KERRIGAN IN COPNHAGEN will be published here soon. Filled with both subtle and not-so-subtle satire, it is the rarest of novels, one that appeals equally to the intellect and ultimately the heart. There is much that will make you smile-- as Mr. Kennedy delights us with the many foibles of these characters-- but just as much to make you mull over and over what really matters in this short time we have here. After all, the first words we read in this strange-- in the best sense of the word-- and beautiful novel are lines from Philip Larkin: ". . . we should be careful/Of each other, we should be kind/While there is still time."

The novel is set in contemporary Copenhagen. Several of the characters-- Frederick Breathwaite, Harald Jaeger, Claus Clausen, Brigitte Sommer and Martin Kampman-- are employees of The Tank (we never find out just what this corporation does). Most of the remaining characters are either spouses or children of these four. Additionally there are Jalal al-Din, the owner of Dom of the Rock Key & Heel Bar, his wife and son. (As I read again and again about the Dom, I asked myself how did Kennedy know so much about shoe repair.) Although this writer's chief targets are materialism-- Martha Stewart would be right at home in these homes filled with designer furniture-- and the shark-infested contemporary workplace ("Kill or be killed") where CEO's are concerned only with profit-and-loss statements, no subject is off-limits: the hypocrisy of parents, sleeping with married co-workers, surfing the internet for sex while at work, discrimination against people who may not look like you or live someplace else (Kampman does not trust the Irish), and people who do not read, to name a few. There is a delightful passage when Jaeger remembers a conversation he was privy to between Breathwaite and an American couple, "the male half of whom had been trained as an astronaut," who read LASSIE to his wife in bed. The wife wants to know what Breathwaite has read lately. He replies that he has just read Neruda's memoir, someone the uninformed American woman has never heard of. Breathwaite tells her that Neruda is a Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize in 1971. She finds that "cool."

Mr. Kennedy it seems can do anything with words. I knew I was in for a reading treat when he makes a verb out of "slipper" in the first chapter. His little run on bras, to Maidenform bras, to maiden to maidenhead (p. 264) is a touch of genius. Or how about this sentence: "It has been raining all day, and the sky hung like a marbleized gray ceiling, low over the city." Then there is the delicious line when Breathwaite can "see clear up to Christmas."

After I finished this novel, I reread chapter 6 ( "The Mumble Club"), the last chapter and the first chapter. "The Mumble Club"-- that could almost stand alone as a short story-- is pivotal to most of what happens later in the novel. The first chapter takes on a whole new meaning-- without revealing too much of the plot-- after you have read the last chapter. What I suppose I'm trying to say is that Mr. Kennedy is a master storyteller but he respects his reader's intelligence.

Frederick Breathwaite ultimately is a character whom-- even if Colm Toibin, a writer I revere, says it is not my job as a reader to like-- I think I do, or at least on some level I understand him. I have known too many Breathwaites or too many people afraid of becoming a Breathwaite. And Mr. Kennedy saves some of his most beautifully poignant passages for him. Near the end of the novel, he, puffing on a "half-smoked apostolado," thinks of his mother and father "years ago, attending a one-man Victor Borge show on Broadway. When? It was the mid-fifties, late fifties, maybe. When he was a child. He remembered them coming home afterward in a taxi. . . Mom in fashionable black, a white fur pillbox hat on her pretty head, flushed with happiness, so amused at the Dane's monologue. . . Strange it seemed to him that that had been back in the United States, land of weak coffee, thin beer, and surly cabdrivers, in New York City, in Sunnyside, Queens, some five decades before, when he was a boy, and now he sat on Victor Borge Place in Copenhagen, fifty years and eight thousand miles away. His beautiful, unfaithful mother was dead, his idealistic, compassionate father, the amusing sardonic Victor Borge. . . All dead." This moving passage, in a strange way is reminiscent of James Joyce's "The Dead."

Finally FALLING SIDEWAYS is of course Mr. Kennedy's love letter to Copenhagen.
A Satire for All Seasons 9 Dec 2012
By H. F. Corbin - Published on Amazon.com
Thomas E. Kennedy's FALLING SIDEWAYS, the second novel of his COPENHAGEN QUARTET to be published in the U. S., made me wish that the next book in the series will get to these shores sooner rather than later. Filled with both subtle and not-so-subtle satire, it is the rarest of novels, one that appeals to the intellect and ultimately the heart. There is much that will make you smile-- as Mr. Kennedy delights us with the many foibles of these characters-- but just as much to make you mull over and over what really matters in this short time we have here. After all, the first words we read in this strange-- in the best sense of the word-- and beautiful novel are lines from Philip Larkin: ". . . we should be careful/Of each other, we should be kind/While there is still time."

The novel is set in contemporary Copenhagen. Several of the characters-- Frederick Breathwaite, Harald Jaeger, Claus Clausen, Brigitte Sommer and Martin Kampman-- are employees of The Tank (we never find out just what this corporation does). Most of the remaining characters are either spouses or children of these four. Additionally there are Jalal al-Din, the owner of Dom of the Rock Key & Heel Bar, his wife and son. (As I read again and again about the Dom, I asked myself how did Kennedy know so much about shoe repair.) Although this writer's chief targets are materialism (Jes Breathwaite tells Adam Kampman that his father was "raised cuckold but lost his father's faith and converted to materialism") and the shark-infested contemporary workplace ("Kill or be killed") where CEO's are hired to fire and concerned only with profit-and-loss statements, no subject is off-limits: the hypocrisy of parents, sleeping with married co-workers--even if it takes ten years to score, surfing the internet for sex while at work, discrimination against people who may not look like you or live someplace else (Kampman does not trust the Irish), and people who do not read, to name a few. There is a delightful passage when Jaeger remembers a conversation he was privy to between Breathwaite and an American couple, "the male half of whom had been trained as an astronaut," who read LASSIE to his wife in bed. The wife wants to know what Breathwaite has read lately. He replies that he has just read Neruda's memoir, someone the uninformed American woman has never heard of. Breathwaite tells her that Neruda is a Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize in 1971. She finds that "cool."

Mr. Kennedy it seems can do anything with words. I knew I was in for a reading treat when he makes a verb out of "slipper" in the first chapter. His little run on bras, to Maidenform bras, to maiden to maidenhead (p. 264) is a touch of genius. Or how about this sentence: "It has been raining all day, and the sky hung like a marbleized gray ceiling, low over the city." Then there is the delicious line when Breathwaite can "see clear up to Christmas."

After I finished this novel, I reread chapter 6 ("The Mumble Club"), the last chapter and the first chapter. "The Mumble Club"-- that could almost stand alone as a brilliant short story-- is pivotal to most of what happens later in the novel. The first chapter takes on a whole new meaning-- without revealing too much of the plot-- after you have read the last chapter. What I suppose I'm trying to say is that Mr. Kennedy is a master storyteller but he respects his reader's intelligence.

Frederick Breathwaite ultimately is a character whom-- even if Colm Toibin, a writer I revere, would tell me that it is not my job as a reader to like-- I think I do, or at least on some level I understand him. I have known too many Breathwaites or too many people afraid of becoming a Breathwaite. And Mr. Kennedy saves some of his most beautifully poignant passages for him. Near the end of the novel, he, puffing on a "half-smoked apostolado," thinks of his mother and father "years ago, attending a one-man Victor Borge show on Broadway. When? It was the mid-fifties, late fifties, maybe. When he was a child. He remembered them coming home afterward in a taxi. . . Mom in fashionable black, a white fur pillbox hat on her pretty head, flushed with happiness, so amused at the Dane's monologue. . . Strange it seemed to him that that had been back in the United States, land of weak coffee, thin beer, and surly cabdrivers, in New York City, in Sunnyside, Queens, some five decades before, when he was a boy, and now he sat on Victor Borge Place in Copenhagen, fifty years and eight thousand miles away. His beautiful, unfaithful mother was dead, his idealistic, compassionate father, the amusing sardonic Victor Borge. . . All dead." This moving passage, in a strange way is reminiscent of James Joyce's "The Dead."

Finally FALLING SIDEWAYS is Mr. Kennedy's homage to Copenhagen, a city he obviously loves. It shows on practically every page of this thoughtful novel.
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