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The Basic Eight Hardcover – 1 Apr 1999


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (1 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312198337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312198336
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 475,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Very funny and very sharp' -- Guardian, 4 April 2002

`A scathing satire...with a dark and completely unexpected twist'
-- New York Post --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 2 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
The Basic Eight is not a book to be read lightly. Under no circumstances should anyone be tempted into reading this tale by Mr Handler by the presumption that it will bear a resemblance to those lovely children's stories he writes as Mr Snicket. While his famous Unfortunate Events stories are known for their rare darkness in tales aimed at minors, The Basic Eight comes from a place far more fundamentally dark and disturbing. The Basic Eight is one of those rare and delightful books that requires the reader to invest in the text and to give as well as, possibly as *much* as to take away from it.
The plot of the story revolves around high school student Flannery Culp and her closest friends "the Basic Eight". Narrated from Flannery's point of view, readers are shown the hardships of teenage life over a period barely longer than a month. This short space of time is enough for Flannery's entire life to be torn apart; by boyfriends and unrequited love; by betrayals and overly amorous teachers; by inept psychologists and by murder.
The voice that Handler gives Flannery is unique and potentially grating. Intellectual poetry and drama loving, grammatically obsessed narrators do not an easy read make, yet for some reason Flannery comes across as a gripping character, and despite her many flaws she is an entirely fascinating heroine.
The real crux of the story comes in the form of a colossal twist in the last few pages. It is the sort of twist likely to leave some readers feeling cheated, yet it is hard not to marvel at the sheer hugeness of it. A re-read is highly recommended as spotting the many clues pointing to the outcome leads to a much greater appreciation of Handler's skill.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tom on 30 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm 17 and have read many books, but no book I have read can match The Basic Eight, by Daniel Handler as the most gripping, intense and moving account of a misunderstood teenager in american society. The narrative structure is clever, the characters expertly drawn, but above all the greatness of this book comes from the narration through the eyes of the witty, sarcastic, unhinged, but above all teenaged Flannery. It just completely appealed to myself as a teenager, though this wont stop older or slightly younger (not too young - you wont get important parts of the book) enjoying it.
I had to read it almost all in one sitting as it gripped me and after reading I thought about it so much that I had to pick up some rubbish book to take my mind off The Basic Eight. The end, following the dramatic and emotional events of 'October 31st' ends on a sad and poetic note, the poetic descriptive qualities of which are present through Handler's amazing authorship. It's one of the greatest coming of age books, ranking up there with Catcher In The Rye - but in my view, better. Get this book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on 10 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
I was asked to read this book on a recomendation from a friend and I didn't expect to enjoy it. However, Handler's insight into the cliques that inevitably form in high school is a fascinating read. High school is a place where children are most commonly influenced and Handler shows this 'coming of age' in a dark, yet witty style. I read this book in a day and I wanted to read it all over again once i'd finished. I find that quite rare. Handler's Basic Eight is never dull, with twists and turns at every chapter's end. I would advise everyone to read this book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
Daniel Handler's Basic Eight, tells of an elitist group of High School kids, who's activities, language and general existence may seem oddly familiar if you are a keen cinema goer. It is very easy to visualise this book and when you do, it will remind you of many a teen-murder film, such as Heathers or Scream with a bit of Clueless thrown in for good measure.
It has a very black humour and perfectly epitomises the 'phoneyness' and 'cliqueyness' of those tiresome adolescents that are stereotyped on the silver screen.
With references to popular music and television, this book satirises American culture in a witty way without naming names (the references to Oprah Winfrey are less than subtle, but very amusing). The main character Flannery Culp will no doubt remind the reader of a female Holden Caulfield (who cannot handle her alcohol or her unrequited love), but she perfectly sums up that horrible picture we are given of the American teenager.
I would recommend this book, not because it is outstanding, but because it is different. It is a very brave and unique interpretation of analysing what has gone wrong with the American teen culture. Too much money, not enough parents and unrequited love with deadly consequences.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By finalguy on 6 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A quick admission; I love books about rich kids in private prep schools. I don't know why but they are just a huge guilty pleasure for me, throw in some murder like this one does, and I will surely find myself having a good time.
This one features a pretentious 'it clique' who refer to themselves as 'The Basic Eight', going about their lives, planning dinner parties, hosting plays and partaking in the odd absinthe induced murder.

In all honesty I wasn't expecting the novel to be so smartly written, and the self-referential style of someone re-writing their diary as they read through the events in the present makes for an interesting insight into the character. The narrator has a habit of pointing out certain bits of important information but can also be untrustworthy in her descriptions leading you to wonder if what is being described is the actual truth, or just her version of it. The characters while caricatures all stand out in that over the top, comedic way, and the confused, delirious absinthe party chapters are definitely a highlight of the book.

Why have I only given this three stars then if I seemed to like it so much? That would be the twist. The twist that is so obvious it barely even deserves the word. The twist that I suspected in the first fifty pages and thought so cliché it couldn't be true. The twist that makes me roll my eyes.

For such a smart novel, the twist is just far too predictable to the point where I felt they didn't even need it. Overall though, an entertaining read that I would love to see an over the top, 'Heathers' style movie version of.
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