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The Double Bind [Paperback]

Chris Bohjalian
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

6 Oct 2008
When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while out riding her bike one Sunday afternoon, her life is changed forever. She begins work at a shelter for the homeless and there meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box full of photos he won't let anyone see. When Bobbie dies suddenly, Laurel discovers that he was once a successful photographer, and her fascination with his former life begins to merge into obsession, not least because some of the photos are of the very same forest trail where she was attacked and nearly killed. Laurel becomes convinced that his photos reveal a deeply hidden, dark family secret. Her search for the truth leads her further from her own life and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; First Printing edition (6 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847391931
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847391933
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 486,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent psychological thriller ........ 23 May 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Chris Bohjalian's novel Midwives has for a long time been one of my favourite books and I have since read Before You Know Kindness and enjoyed it immensely. However I came to The Double Bind with high expectations and having just finished it I am left feeling a little confused. The premise of the story is centered around Laurel Estabrook, a twenty plus social worker at BEDS, a Burlington homeless shelter. Laurel had in the past been the victim of a vicious sexual attack by two men whilst mountain bike riding in the Vermont Hills. Then Bobbie Crocker is brought to the shelter, all he has to his name is a box of old photographs, the purported output of his mentally troubled lifetime. These photographs are his pictorial "autobiography" and following his death the head of the shelter gives Laurel the task of cataloguing them with a view to an exhibition of his work to raise funds. The photographs are of a professional standard and show icons of the 50's and 60's such as Chuck Berry, Julie Andrews, Robert Frost and Eartha Kitt. The author uses the photographs of another real itinerant photographer to interleave the chapters and give added credence to the book.

The device of weaving classic fictional characters into a modern-day psychological thriller is now introduced into the story. Amongst the photographs are ones which Laurel recognises as being of Jay Gatsby's mansion in West Egg and the Buchanan estate in East Egg which at this point I found to be a difficult notion. Pragmatically I was reading the novel on one level as a piece of fiction and then the author introduces another set of well-known fictional characters which the reader is supposed to believe are living breathing characters in their own right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How clever is this author 9 Dec 2009
I read the Great Gatsby as a teenager and thought they were a right unnatractive, bunch of priviledged types, therefore was not precious at all about the author using the characters in this new book. A Great Gatsby lover might feel differently but I have Captain Correlli /Nicholas Cage syndrome

I just read this as part of my reading group and I'm expecting a lively discussion over the author's techniques and cleverness.

From the off I was gobsmacked at how the author surprised me and kept me guessing.

I haven't decided yet whether the final chapter was one bit of cleverness too far. Brilliant but I can't decide if I feel stupid or not. First time i've felt that on reading a book.

It's certainly a gripping read though and I'll be looking for his othe books.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a retelling - a superb repositioning 10 April 2007
By Zannie
I'm not generally a fan of adaptations, but Bohjalian hits the perfect note with his repositioning of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby". Weaving the classic novel The Great Gatsby into his story, Chris Bohjalian's latest, The Double Bind, begins with a violent assault. Young Laurel Estabrook isn't prepared for tragedy when it strikes her randomly, altering her life forever. Brutally attacked by two men while biking in the picaresque Vermont Countryside, Laurel only just survives being raped. Physically and emotionally scarred by the experience, Laurel gropes blindly through her days, trying to return to some kind of normality. She goes on to complete college, which eventually leads her to working in BEDS, a homeless shelter in Burlington where she meets the fifty-six-year-old transient Bobbie Crocker.

Bobbie has a collection of dog-eared, badly preserved photographs with clearly recognizable faces. There are famous people as well as jazz musicians, sculptors, and people playing chess in Washington Square. Laurel also notices there are more recent photos from the area in Vermont where she was attacked, including some of a dirt road and even one with a girl on a bike. In one photo, Laurel recognizes instantly the home of Pamela Buchanan Marshfield and the country club from her childhood, including the Norman-style tower owned by a bootlegger named Gatsby. In another photo, there's a young boy with his sister, who Laurel presumes is Bobby Crocker himself.

The questions remains: if Pamela did have a brother, how could he have wound up homeless and mentally ill in Vermont?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The concept of the discovery of a secret hoard of photographs belonging to a homeless man who had died intrigued me - at least it was a different idea, unlike anything I had ever read before. The attack on the heroine right at the beginning is frighteningly told as is her terrifying panic and realisation that she may be about to die. This is of course slightly modified by our knowledge that she doesn't die as the book's summary on the back has already told us.
The main part of the book I found quite intriguing as the mystery behind the photographs is gradually revealed although there is one idiosyncracy in the writing - referring to a character not as 'she' but 'the woman' - which I found grating and irritating. But if I could overlook that I felt the rest was well written.
But - and it's a huge 'but' unfortunately - the last two pages of the book, which of course I can't divulge, completely ruined the story for me. What should have been a truly dramatic and unexpected ending left me utterly frustrated because so much of what had gone before simply couldn't have happened if this was the truth behind the story.
The relationship between reader and writer has to be based on trust, trust that the author will play fair with the reader. A story told in the first person, for instance, cannot lead to his turning out in the last pages to be the murderer because we feel utterly cheated, he has lied to us throughout the book. A shock ending is one thing but one that then makes a mockery of all that's gone before, leaving gaping plot holes in its wake, is simply not acceptable. It's a pity because the story, as I said, is most unusual and should have been much better than it was.
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