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Gerontius [Paperback]

James Hamilton-Paterson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Nov 1990
The starting point of this novel is an event in the life of Sir Edward Elgar - a cruise to the Amazon that he took in 1923. In telling the story of that journey the author explores melancholy, the waning of creative genius, post-war disillusionment and the way in which England treats its artists.

Product details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (15 Nov 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009979120X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099791201
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 754,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Elgar emerges more vividly than any biography could make him - crusty, petulant, self-deprecating, egotistical, boyishly keen on 'japes', and grateful for the last secret promptings of a dwindling muse. An original and beautifully written debut' Sunday Times 'A novel which is unafraid of ideas and where the writing gives a constant reinforcement of pleasure' Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Hamilton-Paterson is the author of Seven-Tenths, Three Miles Down and Griefwork, among other books. His work has been translated into many languages. He lives in Italy and the Phillippines. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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A train was travelling northwards from London through the grey squalls of a winter's afternoon. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This well written and ambitious novel, which won the Whitbread First Novel Prize in 1989, takes as it's starting point the Amazon cruise Sir Edward Elgar took in 1923 following the death of Lady Elgar. From this material it shapes a discourse on the life of Elgar and the importance of art and culture in our society. As a insight into this fascinating but little known event in Elgar's life the novel works wonderfully well and will be an enjoyable read for all fans of Elgar's music. But does the real Elgar emerge from these pages? Does the music gain from these insights? Are British attitudes to life, art and culture suitably illuminated? Yes and no. If the novel fails it is only that it's ambition ultimately exceeds the ability to deliver in so few pages. In a time of mass market pot boilers written to sell and with very little purpose beyond the commercial this is almost no failure at all!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gerontius: inside Information on Elgar? 5 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I used to live in Great Malvern, where I became interested in Elgar, both the man & his music - for a time I also belonged to the Elgar Society. I think I've read all the major biographies, & I have recordings of most of his works.
Mr.Hamilton-Patterson, the author of this book, takes a little known episode of the composer's life - a six-week voyage in 1923 across the Atlantic & up the River Amazon to the town of Manaos. Manaos is distinguished by the possession of its own opera house.
This actual voyage, which Elgar appears not to have talked about in any special way, is the foundation of Mr.H.-P.'s book.
On it he builds a fictional story of Elgar meeting a woman, Helen Weaver, to whom he proposed marriage when he was in his twenties, also a fact. Although very fond of him, she declined & later emigrated to Australia; they never met again.
In the story she is the widow of a wealthy rubber planter, who came to Manaos many years previously with her husband. She has become a cultural leader of the city. The two of them meet & talk about the present & the past.
Eventually Elgar departs, back to Worcestershire.
Normally, I dislike this sort of writing, as I find it difficult to accept any author's decisions about what a real person might have thought & said & done. HOWEVER, MR.H.-P.'s ideas about Elgar's private thoughts during such a voyage seem to me to be quite extraordinarily perceptive, & fit in with what I might have thought had I thought about the matter at all previously. I started the book somewhat sceptically, but was quickly won over. For me, it was a very great pleasure to read.
The other good thing about it, was that it cost 1p only!! (plus postage of course), & was in very good condition.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elgar on the Amazon 27 Oct 2011
The book: Sir Edward Elgar has lost his taste for music, and takes ship from Liverpool to Manaus, many miles up the Amazon. As the journey unfolds so do his thoughts on fame, genius, music, friends, lovers and adulation... patriotism and war, travel and solitude. In Manaus he meets a woman from his distant past, who has quite her own view of him and his musings...

The author: James Hamilton-Patterson has written on President Marcos of the Philippines, the World's Oceans, Elgar; has published poetry, children's books and the brilliant trilogy (so far, but we can hope) on Gerald Samper, Tuscan sybarite and cook extraordinaire.

My opinion: this was the author's first novel (1989)and not as good as some of his later work; it is very well written, of course, but without the brilliance that shines through in some of his later books. A bit too intellectual at times (for me anyway) though his thoughts on the multiple personalities we have in us, the ways of dealing with growing older, and the pinning down of the possible essentials of life, are still fascinating and riveting. The note at the beginning of the book has some wonderful touches!
"How else can anyone live *but* in the imagination?"
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nuance and compassion in imaginary Elgar biography 25 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Music lovers as well as those who enjoy fine writing will find Hamilton-Paterson's imaginary account of a voyage up the Amazon by Edward Elgar not only entertaining and thought-provoking, but also ultimately very revealing of the contradictions and conflicts in Elgar's character. Hamilton-Paterson's research has been as thorough as his sympathy for his protagonist is obviously deep. This novel won the Whitbread prize for best first fiction
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gerontius 15 May 2001
By Bernard Hughes - Published on
Wistful, poignant and beautifully written, this is a touching and elegaic novel. Blending fact with imaginary events, Hamilton Paterson takes an extraordinary, but true, event from Elgar's life and constructs around it a simple but fabulous narrative about a man at a creative crisis. Thoroughly enjoyable.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skip first 13 pages 20 Feb 2005
By CXC - Published on
The initial section of this book has nothing to do with the plot and is very portentious and incomprehensible. Both I and my wife found it off-puting. However, starting on page 13, this is a superb, beautiful, and thought-provoking novel that I recommend unhesitatingly.
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