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The Burgess Boys [Kindle Edition]

Elizabeth Strout
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

Two brothers' lives are irrevocably altered when their 19-year-old nephew is embroiled in a scandal of his own making
Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a legal aid attorney who idolises Jim, has always taken it in his stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan - the sibling who stayed behind - urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has landed himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.
* 'Strout animates the ordinary with an astonishing force' The New Yorker
* 'As perfect a novel as you will ever read' Evening Standard on Olive Kitteridge
* 'A novel of shining integrity and humour, about the bravery and hard choices of what is called ordinary life' Alice Munro on Amy & Isabelle

Product Description


'Elizabeth Strout, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her 2008 novel Olive Kitteridge, has an extraordinary talent for homing in on the dropped stitch in the family fabric, and family is what The Burgess Boys is really about... a family's idea of itself, and the essential frailty of the things it holds up as certainties... The beauty of this novel lies in the sense of the past being littered with unexploded bombs. You know precisely where to find them, because Elizabeth Strout makes sure they are staring you in the face, but she sets them off in disturbing and unexpected way' Literary Review --Literary Review

'As a portrait of a family struggling to balance the accumulated tensions and resentments of a half century with the pull of kinship that never quite overrides them, [The Burgess Boys]feels so truthful it will sometimes make you gasp. As a portrait of a community struggling to come to terms with the consequences of globalisation, decline, and immigration from cultures that don't want to assimilate, it feels fiercely urgent. This is as much a state-of-the-nation novel as one of small-town life. Elizabeth Strout writes with a lyric simplicity that thrusts you into the heart of each character's life and world…[her] empathy … radiates out to every corner of her world. She shines a light but she doesn't judge. [Strout] has written a novel that makes you feel: this is what it's like to be alive' Sunday Times --Sunday Times

About the Author

Elizabeth Strout's tenure as a lawyer (six months) was slightly longer than her career as a stand-up comedian (one night). She has also worked as a bartender, waitress and piano player at bars across the USA. She now teaches literature in New York, where she lives with her husband and daughter.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 780 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1471127370
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (9 May 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A279YNA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #48,826 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is an immensely touching story about fifty-something siblings and how they negotiate the tensions between them. The story is set both in Shirley Falls, Maine as well as New York. The contrast between how a big city absorbs its immigrants and its effect on small-town America couldn't be more striking. In Shirley Falls, the town is struggling to adjust to its growing Somali community, equally the Somalis themselves are struggling with the idea of assimilation. When an apparent hate-crime occurs, the repercussions for the town and for the Burgess family become unmanageable.

I can't pay Ms Strout more of a compliment when I say we are in Anne Tyler country here. The characterisation throughout this book is exceptional and I feel the people in this story will stay with me for a long time (which with my poor memory is really saying something!). The small-town setting is also reminiscent of Anne Tyler's tales - stories that may appear to be small in scope but which in fact describe a whole world of humanity. This is heartfelt writing of the first order. Elizabeth Strout is a new writer to me and I shall certainly be seeking out her previous work, so fine is this novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Burgess Boys 9 Jun. 2014
By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER
Elizabeth Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for her third novel, "Olive Kitteridge". My first reading of Strout was of this, her fourth novel, "The Burgess Boys" (2013).

Set in New York City and in a small fictitious town, Shirley Falls, Maine, much of the book revolves around family relationships and tensions. The "Burgess Boys", Jim and Bob, are both in their 50s and both are lawyers living in New York City. Jim, four years older than his brother, is Harvard-educated, aggressive and charismatic. He is married to the independently wealthy Helen and the couple have three children in college. Jim achieved fame by his success in securing an acquittal for his client in a notorious, highly publicized criminal case and went on to do white-collar defense criminal defense work for a large firm. His brother, Bob, drinks and smokes heavily. He is divorced, lives alone, and works as an appellate lawyer for Legal Aid. Bob has a twin sister, Susan, in Shirley Falls whose husband left her long before the story begins. Susan's son, a young adult, Zach, lives with her.

The novel pivots on an incident in which during Ramadan young Zach as a prank throws a bloody pig's head in a mosque maintained by Somali immigrants to the United States. There are tensions in Shirley Falls between the Somali people and the largely white and aging community. Zach is charged under State law with a misdemeanor, while the U.S. Attorney is investigating charging Zach with a much more serious civil rights violation and hate crime. In their different ways, Jim and Bob come to the assistance of their sister and their nephew in the town in which they had grown up and left behind many years earlier.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooray - an excellent new author! 23 Oct. 2013
By LitCrit
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Unanimously enjoyed by my women's book group (a rare event), and we decided to read Olive Kitteridge next. It also provoked a lengthy discussion as both characters and plot are so well developed - and the context of Maine and New York added to the interest. We'd heard Elizabeth Strout could be 'the next Anne Tyler', but in our view she's even better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incarcerated in the wrong life 20 July 2013
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Brothers Jim and Bob Burgess escape the provincial world of Shirley Falls, Maine for employment as New York lawyers. In contrast to the ambitious high-flyer Jim, Bob is "a nice guy" but portrayed as a bit of a failure (despite being a qualified lawyer), whose borderline alcoholism may have its roots in his early childhood, when he played a part in the tragic event that blighted his family. When the brothers' dysfunctional nephew commits a criminal act against the Somali immigrants who have begun to arouse the suspicious resentment of the conservative white community of Shirley Falls, Jim and Bob are forced to revisit the town, and old memories.

The strongest aspect for me is the core of the book, the portrayal of the complex relationship between the two brothers, and there are some wry, realistic dialogues. On the other hand, my enthusiasm was eroded from the outset by the to my mind unnecessary device of using a prologue to provide a narrator's advance summary of some of the key facts of the book (more than I have above), with the implication that the following chapters are her "story of the Burgess kids", possibly including a degree of speculation since, "Nobody ever knows anyone".

The story tends to lack dramatic tension, since opportunities to develop or explore situations are frequently missed. Yet plots are probably less important to Elizabeth Strout than people's thoughts and behaviour. Although it is probably meant to be a kind of "stream of consciousness", the many long, rambling sentences with banal word repetition grated on me. This may be a cultural thing - a British reader's criticism of a style that is accepted as the norm in modern American writing. Also, the continual switching between at least six points of view make the story often seem unfocused.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would as ...
Didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would as it is usually my genre and though I loved a TV mini series of her other novel, Olive Kittridge, I just couldn't get into this but... Read more
Published 4 months ago by B. Ni Fhlatharta
2.0 out of 5 stars Not good
This was a chore. Summed up: Life is hard. What empty shells we are. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

The characters are a chore. Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. Reynolds
4.0 out of 5 stars Whereas I found it quite easy to sympathize with unlovable characters...
An exploration of sibling love/hate relationships. In this case they are largely influenced by a tragic event from childhood, which colours the siblings' lives. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Curmudgeon
2.0 out of 5 stars so my disappointment with this novel came as a surprise to me
I have read all her output and regard Amy & Isabelle as a masterpiece, so my disappointment with this novel came as a surprise to me. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Buddy
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Cannot remember anything much about this -- not very enjoyable.
Published 6 months ago by Jill K. Andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
She's a fantastic, intelligent writer. Started with Olive Ketteridge.
Published 7 months ago by penrhynian
4.0 out of 5 stars Aftermath of sibling rivalry
The Burgess children, two boys and a girl, have grown up against the background of the tragic accident that killed their father. Who was responsible? Or does it not matter? Read more
Published 8 months ago by Helen Dunford
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
her books v samey, but also all consuming
Published 8 months ago by Christine Eccles
5.0 out of 5 stars Family skeletons and ties
Beautifully written, with rounded and developing characters about whom we care deeply. Interlinked themes and parallel situations: lost child, estranged partner, dysfunctional... Read more
Published 9 months ago by JonC
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautifully written reflection on family bonds and the meaning of success. A story that will stay with me.
Published 9 months ago by Kate Quinn
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