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Our Tragic Universe Paperback – 7 Apr 2011


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Our Tragic Universe + PopCo + The End Of Mr. Y
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd; Main edition (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847671292
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847671295
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 78,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Scarlett Thomas was born in London in 1972. Her other novels include Bright Young Things, Going Out, PopCo and The End of Mr.Y, which was longlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007. She teaches creative writing at the University of Kent. Her website is at www.scarlettthomas.co.uk

Product Description

Review

Thomas can discuss quantum physics and philosophy while making you think you're reading a sparkling romantic comedy. --Kate Saunders, The Times

A delight, not least for the quality of Scarlett Thomas's writing... Full of life and energy. --Philip Pullman

Is it odd to describe a book as kind? The commodity itself seems an increasingly rare thing in an internet-frazzled world, and so how unexpectedly wonderful to read Scarlett Thomas's Our Tragic Universe, a book that brims with a compassion and warmth. --Patrick Ness, The Guardian

Thomas has the mesmerising power of a great story teller - even if you're not always sure what she's telling you is a story. --Jake Kerridge, Financial Times

This is a novel of big ideas, with an engaging and identifiable central character, which will appeal to David Mitchell fans. --Waterstone's Books Quarterly.

'Thomas can discuss quantum physics and philosophy while making you think you're reading a sparkling romantic comedy.' --Kate Saunders, The Times

'Thomas is excellent on emotional tangles and meandering plotlines that still manage to mean something.' --Independent on Sunday

'Our Tragic Universe surprised me, and in such a terrific way. It is so addictive, you can't help but fall deeper and deeper under Scarlett Thomas's spell. She's a genius.' --Douglas Coupland

'A book that brims with a compassion and warmth'
--Patrick Ness, The Guardian

About the Author

SCARLETT THOMAS was born in London in 1972. Her previous novels include Bright Young Things, Going Out, PopCo and The End of Mr. Y, which was longlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007. She teaches at the University of Kent.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 31 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
There are lots of peculiar goings-on happening around Dartmouth. There may (or may not) be a large beast prowling the moors; a ship in a bottle which is washed ashore may (or may not) hold a significant meaning for the story's main character Meg; we may (or may not) all already be dead and living in some sort of eternal computer-generated afterlife and we may (or may not) be able to piece together meaningful thoughts on the nature of life via the study and practice of knitting, writing, loving, dog walking and reading Anna Karenina.

I guess you could say of any novel ever written that it is 'not for everyone', but I think that's true of 'Our Tragic Universe' in a deeper fashion than it is for just about any other book I've ever read. Personally I loved it - I loved the way the narrative bounced between esoteric ideas such as the Cottingley Fairies that so haunted Conan Doyle one minute and then the meaning of Tarot cards the next; all interspersed with thoughts on the difficult nature of human relationships, the importance of friends and the desire to find your own place in the universe.

One of the key themes of the novel is that stories don't have to have a narrative, they don't need to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Since many aspects of life dribble vaguely onwards towards no readily discernable goal why should a novel be burdened with the need to tell a story?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Black Box on 16 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover
A cracking good book. Probably the best I've read this year, fizzing like a Catherine wheel with intelligence and ideas. So good in fact, that I've become a Hoover for all things Scarlett Thomas, and started immediately on her two previous outings, The End of Mr Y and Popco. And I've even read her blog page, which now feels like a mistake, because her life history sounds rather like the plot for Our Tragic Universe, and that takes some of the shine off the splendour of its originality. I hope that by reading the novels in reverse order the surprise element will return...

So - the plot is a mish-mash of high faluting thought and the mundanity of modern relationships - except mundanity is not the right word because it is a genuinely interesting situation - imagine Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller (or even more exotically, Stephen Hawking and Mike Leigh) writing novels together and you get the picture. The book sort of goes somewhere and the plot sort of resolves itself, but really these things don't matter too much; it's fundamentally a discourse of ideas - I can imagine Thomas is a great lecturer. There is a detached coolness to the writing, as she lets the facts speak excitedly for themselves, and this of course makes the facts more emotional and poignant. That's very clever and hard to do. It's also a very funny novel, and not very girly. It's challenging, but nicely so, and not difficult to read or understand. It's a big grin, and I can't wait to read more - absolutely recommended.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By H. M. Holt on 24 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed Popco and The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas so I was really looking forward to reading her latest book.

The cover and book design are gorgeous and after quoting Nietsche, Plato and Chekhov, the first sentence in the book is now one of my favourite opening sentences:

"I was reading about how to survive the end of the universe when I got a text message from my friend Libby."

Meg is an impoverished writer in an unhappy relationship. She should be writing her great masterpiece but instead is paying the bills by writing bad genre fiction and reviewing books for the local newspaper.

I enjoyed this book immensely but one reason for me taking so long to write this review is that I struggled to pin down what this book is actually about and how to review it. There are various subplots; Meg's failing relationship with her partner Christopher, her attraction to an older man, her continued attempts to write her book, the strange book she reviews about how to survive the end of the universe. But I think the main theme of the book is stories and narrative. The question of whether a storyless story can exist is discussed several times.

Like her previous books, I feel like Scarlett Thomas is writing about more than I can understand but despite that (and perhaps because of it) I always enjoy getting immersed in her worlds and characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By still searching TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After loving its two immediate predecessors; `Popco' and `The End of Mr Y' I had great hopes for `Our Tragic Universe': alas, to no avail. It is quite difficult to give an overview of the plot since there really isn't one in the commonly accepted understanding of the word; i.e. the narrative of a sequence of events, usually temporally ordered so that effect may be construed from likely cause and all intended to evoke within the reader an emotional response arising, again commonly, from the resolution of a problem or conflict set up early on in the narrative. My immediate response to reading the last word was, thank God that's over with!

It could be argued, I suppose, that the `problem' is the protagonist, Meg's, hugely irritating fop of a boyfriend with whom she cohabits and by whom she is treated as a surrogate mother. Alternatively, the problem could be viewed as her inability to complete, or even start, the novel that she keeps wittering on about throughout the book in between wittering on about the end of narrative as a literary device and the fictionalization of real life.

Both Popco and The End of Mr Y had conventional narratives; there were discernible story arcs and you knew you were, with the protagonists, travelling along roads the end of which represented real and varyingly satisfying resolutions. If Thomas's intention was to demonstrate the storyless story she certainly made a good job of it although for what purpose, Heaven only knows! Surely, she ought to realize, by now, that what readers are looking for; at the very least is a (satisfying) story when they pick up a storybook to read!
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