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Mother London [Paperback]

Michael Moorcock
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 May 2000
Three hospital outpatients all find that they hear voices - the voices of London's past. As they explore the city of their present day, they also explore its recent past and its forgotten people. Through the lives of those on the fringe of society, we learn what it is like - and what it has always been like - to live in the great, sprawling, polyphonic, multicoloured capital.


Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; New edition edition (1 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684861410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684861418
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 227,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Michael Moorcock's Mother London is perhaps his best known literary work and for good reason. Shortlisted for the Whitbread fiction prize this has the feel of a novel by a writer at the acme of his powers. A large, though never sprawling, novel Mother London follows three mental-hospital outpatients Mary Gasalee, David Mummery and Josef Kiss and their friends, in an episodic, non-linear history of the capital from the Blitz to present day. Most noteworthy is the astounding humanity of the novel (a quality redolent in all his work including its excellent follow up King of the City), with all of London's outcasts and marginals mentioned and defended. This could have reduced the novel to polemic, to parody or to the dreadful, mind-narrowing of political correctness but instead is testimony to the fact that Moorcock has created such a fine array of believable, flawed, kind characters.

Throughout the book the voice of ordinary Londoners forces its way into the narratives through snippets of conversations "overheard" by the three main characters who each have, to a greater or lesser extent, the gift of telepathy. This hint of magic is underplayed throughout so that the work never succumbs to the straitjacket of magical realism itself: the conceit is used very successfully to take our characters out of themselves, and to allow London, and the voices that constitute her being, into the novel as a character herself. A vast and superb achievement (London novelists such as Charles Dickens, Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair all come to mind as peers), Mother London is a book to cherish--rarely have the voices of this wonderful city spoken out so clearly through such an expansive story. --Mark Thwaite

About the Author

Michael Moorcock was born in England in 1939. He has written many novels and has won the GUARDIAN Fiction Award for CONDITION OF MUSAK and was short-listed for the Whitbread Prize for MOTHER LONDON. In recent years he has achieved an international reputation and is now recognised as a major contemporary novelist. A longtime resident of London, he now lives near Austin, Texas, with his wife.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best London novel in years 6 Jun 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is definitely the best novel of London I've read since Bleak House! Moorcock has the same ability as Dickens to populate his novels with all kinds of believable yet quirky characters. The book isn'tat first the easiest to read because of its method of moving backwards and forwards in Time around the central event of the London Blitz. You quickly get used to it and the experience adds to the novel. Three outpatients at a mental hospital are the three main characters -- David Mummery, Mary Gasalee and Josef Kiss -- and their involvement with one another and their various friends and relatives is the core of the book. It is an incredibly warm-hearted, loving book, with a wonderful ending. Trying to describe the book is a bit like trying to describe London -- almost impossible. So I suppose you could say that in Mother London Michael Moorcock has done the impossible. I find his fantasy books a bit too full of blood and thunder for my taste, though I know they are more than that, but Mother London is amazing -- a great social novel of London life in the years between 1940 and 1990. What I can't believe is that I had to search this out second hand until this edition was published. Why would they keep something this good out of print for so long ? Worth waiting for, if you've never read it. If you're someone like me who needs a really 'meaty' substantial read and has become bored with Martin Amis's engagingly flashy work, then this is exactly what you'll enjoy!
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant characters and setting 10 Dec 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a novel with dozens of stories and no plot. Instead, the book is constructed as a kind of wheel, revolving around central scenes set in the London Blitz (and some of the best scenes are these). The wonderfully warm, generous personality of Joseph Kiss, perhaps Moorcock himself, permeates the novel and his love for Mrs Mary Gasalee, who has spent much of her life in a coma after being blitzed, culminates in a wedding scene worthy of Dickens. London, from 1940 to the present, is lovingly brought to life and her millions of denizens are represented in the 'voices' which Kiss and his colleagues (apparently mad) can hear in their minds. This is not a fantasy device, but a means of bringing on what is essentially a 'chorus'. The Scaramanga sisters are tremendous characters and the novel abounds with a host of wonderful, eccentric people. I must admit I fell in love with Joseph Kiss and longed to wander the city with the same mixture of insouciant courage and pleasure. It probably isn't possible to do that so easily, these days, so MOTHER LONDON will have to suffice. It made me nostalgic for a sweeter, safer, perhaps more generous London. And if you want another great cast of characters, who live in a more contemporary London, try KING OF THE CITY, which is a kind of companion to MOTHER LONDON. I can't praise this novel enough. It is a mighty thing!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful novel 16 Dec 2003
Format:Paperback
This is a wonderful novel. Rich, complex and genuinely humane. Michael Moorcock's ability to create realistic characters often in the most fantastic situations is here seen at its finest, where he is describing ordinary Londoners in an ordinary city.
Only the device of using 'voices' -- a sort of Londoners' chorus -- makes this book in any way fantastic. He takes a triangle of disparate people -- a music hall performer, a reclusive writer and a woman who has awakened from a coma after many years -- and describes them, their relatives and friends during the years from 1942 (the Blitz) to 1988, but it is not the typical 'family saga'. Its picture of an entire city is loving and at the same time profound. It could be read in conjunction with Peter Ackroyd's non-fiction about London and give you a very thorough picture of the city. I came to Michael Moorcock recently and have read his fantasy (though I am not much of a fantasy reader) as well as his literary fiction and I find that whenever I feel like a thoroughly satisfying read I reach either for a new Moorcock (one I haven't read) or Mother London, which always delivers more than the first, second or even third time I read it. It has my heartfelt recommendation!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Victorian virtues, modern obsessions 15 May 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is probably my favourite novel by a living English author.
I recently bought my third copy because I keep lending it and not getting it back. Anyone interested in the history of contemporary London but who wants to read a novel with a cast of characters and variety of scenery as rich and complex as Dickens should get Mother London. My only advice is not to go lending it to anyone. You'll probably find you have to buy
another!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best read in tandem with King of the City 8 July 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I loved this book and didn't think I would enjoy King of the City as much, but in fact both books should be read together. The period covered is Moorcock's whole life-time from the Blitz to the present day and taken together forms a stunning physical and moral portrait of the capital. Nobody has ever tried anything like this on so many levels. You can read Mother London again and again and draw different stories from it. It constantly gives you something new. The three main characters in Mother London echo the three main characters in King of the City, but their stories are very different. Mother London is about three marginilised individuals, on the fringest of society for whatever reason, while King of the City deals with three individuals at the heart of the power. Their themes are similar -- love of power and power of love can be very similar, as Moorcock says -- but whereas King of the City has a feeling of almost manufactured hope in it, Mother London is a celebration, full of joy and a real love of humanity. That affection for humanity is what marked Moorcock's fantastic fiction and is what endures through everything he writes. This book is a true classic and I treasure it. Emma T
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Expansive and humane
Moorcocks portrait of London from the blitz through to the 80s is told through the voices of 3 members of group of mental health patient who's stories have entwined over those... Read more
Published on 18 Jun 2011 by Lendrick
4.0 out of 5 stars Full marks for imagination...
I read " A Week in December" by Sebastian Faulks over Christmas and noticed a reviewer of it on Amazon had reccommended this book as being a better read than it. Read more
Published on 7 Mar 2011 by Martin Jepson
4.0 out of 5 stars There's precious little justice in this old city
I loved Moorcock when I was younger, not so much the sword-and-sorcery stuff but `Behold The Man', `The Cornelius Quartet' and `Gloriana' were amongst my favourite novels in my... Read more
Published on 29 Nov 2010 by A. Willard
5.0 out of 5 stars mother london
I first read this book about fifteen years ago, but then I lost it, or gave it away or something. I always wanted to read it again, and this time I intend to keep it. Read more
Published on 14 May 2010 by Mr. D. J. Long
4.0 out of 5 stars Familiar streets transformed
Like Neil Gaiman (Gaimanesque?), the supernatural is everyday in Mother London. And like Anthony Burgess (Burgessian? Read more
Published on 12 Aug 2008 by Pablo K
4.0 out of 5 stars Flotsam and Jetsam
I loved the structure of this novel. The chapters in each book ebb and flow through time, mirroring London's great river, revealing the flotsam and jetsam of the book's voices and... Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2005 by frenesi_g
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy....
I've always had a 'fondness' for Moorcock, and read all, and I mean all, his Eternal Champion series as a teenager, but would find it hard to recommend any to anyone other than... Read more
Published on 26 May 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A true modern masterpiece
In its scope, in its masterly handling of form, in the warmth and humanity of its characters, Mother London stands head and shoulders over almost any other English novel I have... Read more
Published on 30 Mar 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Ahhh, s'ok
I first tried reading this several years ago, but became bored a few pages in and stopped. I can see why now, as it's a slow start to a meandering tale involving many characters. Read more
Published on 24 Nov 2002 by Phil Gyford
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of a great bunch
There are some fine London novels available to us now, but Maureen Duffy's Capital and Michael Moorcock's Mother London were the first consciously trying to encompass a universal... Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2002
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