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Signs of Life [Paperback]

Anna Raverat
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

3 Jan 2013

Ten years ago, Rachel had an affair. It left her life in pieces. Now, writing at her window, she tries to put those pieces together again.

She has her memories, recollections of dreams, and her old yellow notebook. More than anything, she wants to be honest.

Rachel knows that her memory is patchy and her notebook incomplete. But there is something else. Something terrible happened to her lover.

Her account is hypnotic, delicate, disquieting and bold. But is she telling us the truth?


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (3 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330544489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330544481
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 362,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

‘A beautifully written psychological study, cleverly told’ Daily Mail

‘Compelling . . . its haunting tone and sinister implications, about reliability of memory and the fatally destructive impact one action can have, is both chilling and deeply affecting’ Easy Living

‘Will have you reading till 3 a.m.’ Psychologies

‘Classy and accomplished’ Guardian

‘Compelling, gritty and intelligent’ Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Book Description

It started quietly and without her looking for it, but the aftershock was profound. Ten years ago, Rachel had an affair. It spiralled out of control and left her and her life in pieces. Now, writing at her window, she tries to put those pieces back together. She has her memories, recollections of dreams, and her old yellow notebook. More than anything, she wants to be honest. She knows that her memory is patchy and her notebook incomplete. But there is something else. Something terrible happened to her lover. Her account is hypnotic, delicate, disquieting and bold. But is she telling us the truth? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely surprise of a book 26 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If someone told me I'd enjoy a book with absolutely no direct dialogue I would have laughed. This book is so cleverly written, so considered in its structure. It's difficult to write the 'unreliable' narrator but the author does so perfectly. We never love Rachel, but we understand her, even if you would prefer not to. The book leaves the reader with many uncomfortable questions.
One of those books - the best sort of book - that leaves you thinking about it for days after you've finished reading.

A great read. Don't be put off with the 'literary' tag. Perhaps it is, but is also accessible to all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and well worth trying out 19 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I really enjoyed it even though this is not usually my type of book. Yes, Rachel is pretty selfish but still very intriguing in a sort of Milan Kundera way. The style is direct and accessible - although it revolved between the main themes that wasn't too distracting. The poetry didn't really do it for me but shouldn't put anyone off. (The author is a close friend of mine so do discount my view accordingly!)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, claustrophobic, strange 29 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This is both readable and strangely claustrophobic; you're trapped with Rachel, the narrator, just as she's trapped in her own story, telling and retelling her past and trying to work out her part in it. But what was that? As she remembers her affair with sexy colleague Carl, and the destruction of her previously happy domestic life, we're never quite sure how to approach her. Was she a victim - or are we in the hands of an arch manipulator, someone who's skilled at deception, in life and in her writing? It takes a good deal of skill to involve a reader with an unreliable narrator, and Raverat mostly pulls it off: the obsessive self-justification, the inevitability of her attraction towards the man she knows she shouldn't be with, is worked through in beautiful prose. Yes, it verges on melodrama, especially as it goes hurtling towards its end... but what's a good obsessive bit of adultery without melodrama?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshingly taut and powerful novel 19 July 2012
Format:Hardcover
There is much more to this excellent novel than first meets the eye. So convincing are the elliptical, disconnected recollections of the narrator, who is recovering from a breakdown, that it presents itself initially as all psychology and no story. It's only when Anna Raverat pulls together all her threads in a devastating conclusion that you realise how tightly written and plotted the entire work has been, and can begin to trace her themes, which have been built up in the most delicate and skilful fashion.

The blurb encourages us to read Signs Of Life less as a plot-driven novel and more as a meditation on memory and the nature of writing, so it's a welcome surprise to discover such a strong narrative driving the book along, as the shocking events leading to the narrator's breakdown are hinted at and finally laid bare. It's even more of a welcome surprise that both the narrative and the psychology are utterly believable and down-to-earth, with none of the tendency to Gothic melodrama that mars some contemporary novels. Anna Raverat is sufficiently confident in her own ability as a novelist that she makes the ordinary and the everyday compelling, and does not feel the need to decorate Signs Of Life with spurious exotic touches.

It's a gripping and powerful novel which stays with you long after you've finished it, and I would recommend it very highly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Rowena Hoseason HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an astonishingly accomplished novel of the human condition which painfully peels apart the reality and perception of adult ‘romantic’ relationships. It’s written with a kind of audacious daring which I found frankly flabbergasting.

The narrative weaves between episodes from the storyteller’s early life with her super-attractive sister, to scenes here-and-now in her lonely studio as she tries to make sense of the mess her life has become, to critical moments a decade ago with her long-term boyfriend and the affair which ripped apart her previously consistent existence. Seemingly unconnected paragraphs from pivotal moments scattered throughout her personal timeline collide to create a compelling account of love’s truths – of the pettiness and importance of human interactions, and of how hard it can be to trust the memory of one’s earlier self.
Like I said, flabbergasting.
You can see some of the awful things looming on the horizon with inevitable dread, but the matter of fact tone of the storytelling and the clever time-shifting narrative kept me near-mesmerised. In the best tradition of watching a car crash in slo-mo, most of the traumatic moments were telegraphed miles ahead… but I couldn’t turn away as they unfolded with the bewildering bitterness that is so emblematic of imploding love.
However, Signs of Life isn’t simply a story of emotional angst. There are lighter moments and an ongoing thread of personal redemption, of coming to terms with the past, accepting the present and of facing the future – if not entirely intact, then at least with equanimity. The fate of the abandoned building across the street is… revealing.

A remarkable first novel. Excellent characterisation, gripping plot, taut writing. it’s a remarkable thing, to be able to shed new light on such an established – almost hackneyed – subject.
Recommended, if hardly a comfortable or reassuring read.
9/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive first novel 28 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback
Anna Raverat's very impressive first novel caught my attention partly I guess because it focuses on memory, its reliability and the way it gets contorted with the passage of time. Set ten years after the fairly short affair that was to turn her life upside down, Rachel struggles to comprehend "What on earth made me choose Carl over Johnny?" As the story unfolds the reader also begins to wonder. It's not difficult to see and understand the intial attraction of an office affair with an older man. Rachel was only a teenager when she first got together with Johnny, now her partner of five years; Carl was exciting and different. But as the story progresses Carl's shortcomings develop an intensity that is ultimately terrifying.

Beautifully written and cleverly structured it's not difficult to see why Waterstones selected 'Signs of Life' as one of the most promising first novels of 2012. Occasionally I found it a little confusing as the narrative slipped backwards and forwards in time and place. But then that's so characteristic of memory. The extract from Joan Didion's 'On Keeping a Notebook' resonated with me as it did with Rachel: "...how imagination merges with memory, how dreams get confused with facts."

Skilfully structured and beautifully written 'Signs of Life' gripped me more than I had anticipated. Having recommended it to men and women friends in my (older) age group, I found them equally impressed. We're looking forward to the second novel!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my thing
This book started well but quickly I found if confusing as the story flitted about and left me confused and despite a few attempts I did not finish it.
Published 2 months ago by DavyA
3.0 out of 5 stars Chilling and exciting
Almost evocative of Virginia Woolf (the style is too staccato to be Woolf and it's nowhere near the same class), this is an exploration of a character that may not suit readers who... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gareth Smyth
3.0 out of 5 stars compelling
The story is very interesting - told by an unreliable narrator (can she be trusted to be telling the truth or not? Read more
Published 2 months ago by xenofan
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Dull and Uneventful
This debut sees the character of Rachel attempt to piece together an affair she had 10 years previously with the help of her notebook. Read more
Published 3 months ago by JennyD
2.0 out of 5 stars Strange, boring and dull
Signs of Life tells the story of Rachel and the affair she had with her work colleague Carl ten years earlier, which completely destroyed her life. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nikki
4.0 out of 5 stars Very cleverly written
I really enjoyed this book. The structure was a bit strange but really worked well, you kind of get to know almost everything right at the beginning, but as the book goes along in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Laura Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, riveting and quietly threatening!
This book was strangely compelling. Not a lot happens, but I wanted to see how the book ended.

I'm not usually keen on unreliable narrators, especially those as scatty... Read more
Published 6 months ago by DaisyDaisy
4.0 out of 5 stars Signs of Life by Anna Raverat
This is a challenging read, have no doubt.

The writing style is erratic and disconnected. Because of the circumstances of our narrator, you feel little empathy for her. Read more
Published 11 months ago by zombielover
3.0 out of 5 stars Literary liquorice
Life doesn't actually imitate novels and if you have ever gotten in a mess or been there for a friend who has been in a mess, you will know that life isn't tidy and that in real... Read more
Published 16 months ago by S. Thomas
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and complex
Ten years ago, Rachel had an intense love affair with a work colleague and it did not end well. Ever since then she has been trying various ways to help her move on with her life -... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Marie
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