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3.6 out of 5 stars10
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 15 March 2010
Paradise

AL Kennedy's "Paradise" is hard going. The central character is Hannah, an alcoholic woman trapped in a spiral of self-justification and self-loathing, whose attempts to get out of the hole she is in are destined to be thwarted by her relationship with another alcoholic, Robert, a dentist. Kennedy invests Hannah with her considerable resources of wit - the author makes regular appearances as a stand-up at Edinburgh - but despite this she is not good company.

The circularity means that there is little in the way of plot (as opposed to incident). A period drying out comes to nothing; she loses her job; egged on by Robert she goes on a binge which brings hallucinations and annihilates her personality. Except it doesn't, because always there is this highly articulate first-person narrator talking into your ear. The process of getting drunk is a process of liquefaction, but Hannah remains always and inevitably razor-sharp. Although this does allow Kennedy to get a kind of dual perspective on the flawed narrator, cheerily insisting she's in great shape while wetting her knickers, this contradiction also invests the whole novel with a curious artificiality, as if the author is in it for the exhibitionist exercise.

How long can anyone take being buttonholed by a drunk, however intelligent and funny, in a bar? Personally I'd give it about half an hour, and certainly not 350 pages. Members of my book club felt the same - we gave it an average of 2 stars.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 March 2016
***
7/10
This is Alison Kennedy’s fourth, of her seven novels. It is now 12 years old. Her experience of being a stand up comedienne comes through with her wit and dark humour in this read.
I must confess that it took me several weeks to get through this book. I’d pick it up, read a few pages and then leave it a while again – I just couldn’t get into it ; at times I found the prose very start – stop with very little flow in places.
I did persist and I am moderately pleased that I did. I would think that Alison has some very close experiences of alcoholism as the read comes across as very realistic.
There isn’t too much of a storyline to be honest and the best is left until the very end – which I did enjoy. Maybe it’s a little overly long and could have done with just a few more twists, clever or startling moments to make you sit back and appreciate. However, it is different, though not gripping or truly interesting enough for me.
Not a bad read but not an outstanding one either IMHO. I’m still not sure if I would recommend it to a friend but I understand why some have really liked it.
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on 26 February 2013
Brilliantly enters the reality of the hardened drinker and the way that addiction can have a quality like doomed romantic love. Takes you to a place where that makes sense and feels right. Is also searingly funny. And desperately sad. Like life is sometimes.

Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2005
I am a huge fan of A.L. Kennedy's writing, and this book does not let down anyone familiar with her other work, in that it exhibits the same imaginative, intricate and innovative use of language we have come to expect.
My only caveat is that the book seemed to run out of steam (no pun intended regarding the fact that the scene is a train) about 50 pages from the end; was that perhaps the effect of the claustrophobic world she had created?
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on 9 August 2011
I loved this. Considering that the 'voice' of the book comes from a woman who is almost consistently drunk, it is tremendously clear and easy to read. I love the way the novel has a looping quality, not just tiresomely darting here and there, more like a sort of chain stitch structure, always driving the story forward from start to finish, so (after the first chapter)it is absolutely clear where we are in the story. It's witty, clever, insightful, fascinating about alcoholism, and, above all, funny. I did think the last tenth of the book dragged a little - people's hallucinations are as dull to read about as their dreams. But she had stored up so much of this reader's goodwill by then that I didn't mind.
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on 13 January 2005
Alison Kennedy's use of English is original, always interesting and at times spectacular. I found myself reading the occasional paragraph aloud to who ever would listen. She manages to lift you off the ground at the start and keep you in her world for the duration (maybe I'm still there?). This spiky, awkwardly cosy, embarrassing, painful, intensely self-absorbed world is shown with great insight and sensitivity but is not one that you would choose to inhabit. With hindsight, there are echoes of "One flew over the Cuckoo's nest" though this in no way detracts from the originality of her novel. This is not a book to enjoy in the strict sense, but makes compelling reading. Depending on your sensitivity to the subject matter you may find you need to read this in chapter sized chunks. I read this after seeing the author speaking about it - her dry, unpretentious take on life appealed to me. If you are still undecided, I would put this book in the "Essential reading" category.
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on 27 November 2004
Not a novel to be picked up and put down. It won't work for ten minutes on the train and maybe later when the kids are asleep.
Take time - enjoy it by the fire and read it for long hours as I did. You will be longing to get back to it the next day. It's entirely engrossing. And you won't forget these characters!
** small warning: it may cause you to cut down on your drinking.
Highly recommended. I really loved this book!
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on 20 July 2007
This is one of the most interesting novels I have read in a long while. There are some incredible passages of inventive prose and some extremely funny set-pieces but it also a sensitive study of a character gradually falling apart. Like the main character the book doesn't ask for sympathy; there's a brutal honesty to her addiction. I found myself marking page after page to go back and re-read.
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VINE VOICEon 24 April 2006
I can't believe that I persevered to the end of the book....and I can't believe the other reviewers rated it so highly.

The end is as muddled as the beginning and I've no more idea what happened than the 'heroine', who was frequently so drunk that she could't even remember which country she was in.

Was the boyfriend there at the end??..or just an halucination?

Don't waste your time, there are millions of much better books.
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VINE VOICEon 30 August 2006
I can't believe that I persevered to the end of the book....and I can't believe the other reviewers rated it so highly.

The end is as muddled as the beginning and I've no more idea what happened than the 'heroine', who was frequently so drunk that she could't even remember which country she was in.

Was the boyfriend there at the end??..or just an halucination?

Don't waste your time, there are millions of much better books.
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