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Lionel Asbo: State of England [Hardcover]

Martin Amis
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 15.19 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Jun 2012

Lionel Asbo - a very violent but not very successful young criminal - is going about his morning duties in a London prison when he learns that he has just won £139,999,999.50 on the National Lottery. This is not necessarily good news for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Des Pepperdine, who still has reason to fear his uncle's implacable vengeance.

Savage, funny, and mysteriously poignant, Lionel Asbo is a modern fairytale from one of the world's great writers.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (7 Jun 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0224096206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224096201
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Amis is the author of ten novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories and six collections of non-fiction. He lives in London.

Product Description


"Martin Amis's Lionel Asbo made me laugh (as any novel driven by incestuous relations with your grandmother should) and then feel ashamed for that laughter (as any novel driven by incestuous relations with your grandmother should)." (James Kidd Independent)

"It's a Big Mac made from filet mignon. It is a book of lovehate. It is a powershake. And the biggest joy is that Amis seems to find himself (and finds us, by extension) loving the thing he loathes... So let's give thanks that Martin Amis was bad enough and brave enough to write it" (Nicola Barker Observer)

"This is still a Martin Amis novel, full of tense, fugitive moments.had me roaring with laughter." (DJ Taylor Independent)

"Being an Amis novel it's not without the odd good joke, and he is, of course, incapable of writing and inelegant line. (It's almost as if he alone can sense both the golden ratio of a sentence, and its perfect rhythm: it's like he's Michelangelo and Keith Moon)." (David Annand Sunday Telegraph)

"As soon as you begin this novel, it is clear that Amis does indeed love his monstrous invention, Lionel Asbo. Lionel is a fantastic brute. Amis's delight in the incorrigible is genuinely Dickensian. This is a verbally inventive be enjoyed in the same spirit as Little Britain. It's a hoot." (David Sexton Evening Standard)

Book Description

A modern fairytale from one of the world's great writers

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lionel Asbo: State of England 18 Oct 2012
I think this book has been unfairly criticized. Agree that it's not as sharp as Money or London Fields. Likewise, it's not as poignant or expansive as The Pregnant Widow. But it's certainly no turkey, like Yellow Dog was. It's a funny, clever satire that examines celebrity, wealth, class, family, and relationships in 21st-century England. It's a state-of-the-nation novel that contains some dazzling phrases and sentences.

While there are motifs repeated from his other books, he does this so well that it doesn't matter. And he never resorts to cliché.

Is it among his very best? No. Is it worth reading? Yes.
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of touch 25 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
To write about the Underclass, a writer must surely have some knowledge or experience of it, even if all it amounts to is a week or two hanging out in some low-life pub. I'm not going to give a summary of the plot: there are some excellent ones here already. I'll just say that the plot is an engaging one, and Amis a consummate storyteller. Where he falls down, in my opinion, is that he doesn't make me believe in his characters. It's not clear whether he intends them to be outlandish caricatures of benefits scroungers, thugs and teenage mothers. (David Cameron and George Osborne may have picked up their ideas from the same sources.)"Lionel Asbo" is also full of anachronisms. For example, at what sink comprehensive were boys wearing shorts and purple blazers as recently as 2006? Surely a 15-year-old has a mobile phone, even if s/he has nothing else? (Most of the 8-year-olds I know have them.) The book sometimes reads like a poor, contrived pastiche of Dickens, funny surnames, street names and all. Where Amis excels is in his ability to convey a character's physical features in a small number of words, and his beautiful use of simile and metaphor: the sun, in one passage, is fixed in the sky like a gilt tack. "Lionel Asbo" is an enjoyable read, but that isn't enough. I failed to engage with his characters; they seemed rather pathetic, and in the end I didn't really care what happened to them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lionel Asbo 12 Aug 2013
This is the third Martin Amis novel I have read and I have enjoyed reading it as much as the other two.

Martin Amis' style seems to me a strange concoction of highly erudite and wonderfully earthy. This book is no exception. The title character Lionel Asbo is a tabloid stereotype, an uneducated lumpen chav who lives a life of petty criminality who views the imposition of an anti social behaviour order as a badge of honour rather than a mark of shame. He was the youngest of 7 children born to a woman who was a child herself when she started having children. He lives in a fictional district of London called Diston which is likened to a third world city with low career ambitions, short life expectancy, lack of respect for the law, and high birth rate.

Tabloids love to publish tales of awful people from such environments with benefit fraud, single mothers and criminality etc. In many ways this novel seems to revel in it but it also satirises society's obsession with celebrity.

The story revolves mainly around Asbo's 140 million win in the lottery while he was on remand awaiting sentence for his part in a riot at a hotel wedding reception. He begins a "Lotto Lout", spending the money with almost criminal abandon but somehow calms down when he meets a glamour girl turned poetess called Threnody and between them they become national treasures probably with the help of their savvy PR assistants.

Lionel Asbo is seen through the eyes of his nephew Desmond, who, unlike his uncle who does at least have some educational aspirations and who eventually becomes a journalist on a national newspaper.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Li of the land. 3 Dec 2012
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
Well, well, well. Lionel Asbo has certainly caused something of a stir amongst the Amazon reviewing community. For what it's worth - and this review will be so far down as to never be seen - I found it to be Shamelessly enjoyable.

Film and tv viewers of such programmes as Shameless are certainly inured to seeing (hmm, how shall I put this?) the underclass (if that would be acceptable?) portrayed on the screen. But in a book, not so much. Martin Amis clearly had fun writing this and why should he not? We all have the right to write what we like these days so I really don't see why he should be decried for doing so. Why the fuss?

Bad luck for Amis, though, that the publication of this book more or less coincided with the government's announcement of a proposal to replace ASBOs with a "criminal behaviour order" (nicknamed "crimbo" in the media). Thus, the moment the book came out, it appeared to be immediately behind the zeitgeist. Timing is everything. But it doesn't really matter whether the book is relevant to our times or whether it tells us anything about the state of the nation. The question is: is it a good read? For my money, the book is a blast.

Others have covered the plot but it bears repeating that the main protagonist, violent, amoral Uncle Li, lacks a single redeeming quality; you have to be prepared for the fact that there are no concessions to likeability here. Then there's his mum who has a penchant for young boys and the Telegraph cryptic crossword. His long-suffering, academically brilliant nephew Des, the moral heart of the book. Plus sundry other unsavoury characters whose names are a hoot (as you'd expect from Amis). And then there are the dogs.

Jokes, when they come, are laugh out loud funny and the writing is glorious. Exuberant, even. The thing about Martin Amis never writing a cliché has, in itself, become a cliché. Oh, the irony.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Mean Mr.Amis
No doubting his gifts, this evisceration of today's celebrity culture is as patronising, snobby, cutting and horrid as Amis can make it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by The Outsider
5.0 out of 5 stars Amis at his very best. The ASBO as a badge of honour.
It would be sacrilege not to give Lionel ASBO 5 stars. Amis is a master of his craft. Lionel ASBO is an inspired creation. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Justice Peace
4.0 out of 5 stars Lionel Asbo - halfway there
Not up to Amis`s best but a good read and with some very darkly funny moments. Even though he seems to have lost his ear for prole talk he can still conjure up terrifying images of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Czechboy
4.0 out of 5 stars Another top notch entertainment.
Not visionary or particularly insightful. I don't like much the way he portrays the poorer sides of society. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Andy Vizor
1.0 out of 5 stars Amis: the decline continues.
I got about half way through this wearisome yarn before abandoning it. In my judgement Amis has produced nothing worth reading since "London Fields" and "The... Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Frum
3.0 out of 5 stars Bookclub review
This was given as a book to read at our book club of many years standing. It was given a 5.7point out of 10 max. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Rob the axeman
5.0 out of 5 stars Who? Who?
I'd read four of Amis's novels before Lionel Asbo (the Rachel Papers, Night Train, Money, London Fields), but Asbo replaces Money as the favourite. I've heard that ol' M.A. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Troy Parfitt
1.0 out of 5 stars Emperor's new clothes
This book left me fuming at the audacity of Amis' laziness. While it contains some beautifully crafted sentences, the anachronisms, lack of originality, inattention to detail and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by quillpen
4.0 out of 5 stars woof,woof.
When I was a grubby little adolescent I gobbled up "The Rachael Papers", "Success" and (especially) "Dead Babies" with a good deal of relish. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dave
1.0 out of 5 stars Decline and Fall
The pretentious (just desperate?) sub-title of Martin Amis's latest novel is State of England; it might more fittingly have been State of Amis. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Enobarbus
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