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The Drowning People Paperback – 27 Jan 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (27 Jan 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014027894X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140278941
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 3 x 17.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,267,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

"My wife of more than forty-five years shot herself yesterday afternoon. At least that is what the police assume, and I am playing the part of grieving widower with enthusiasm and success...It was I who killed her." Thus begins The Drowning People, the media-hyped first novel by 20-year-old Oxford undergraduate Richard Mason. Your typical murder mystery it is not, for we are given the identity of the killer--the "who?"--immediately. The puzzle to be solved in this introspective novel is "why?"--why did 70-year-old James Farrell murder his wife Sarah? The answer, as it develops from his own confession, delves nearly 50 years into the past and roams from Prague to London, from France to a remote castle in Cornwall. At its core is an intoxicating love affair set amidst the stifling world of English aristocracy: James at 22, a talented musician and hopeless romantic and Ella Harewood, his wife's cousin, an American heiress to an English title, trapped by her heritage and destiny. A beautifully written exploration of self-absorbed first love and its tragic consequences, Richard Mason's The Drowning People soars beyond the highest of expectations placed upon it. --Shannon Bingham --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


`Assured, well-paced and ambitious ... the writing is a delight. An exceptional achievement. (GUARDIAN (1999))

`Redolent of early Evelyn Waugh... Mason already displays narrative drive, verbal skill and technical mastery. (DAILY EXPRESS (1999))

`One of the most talked about first novels of 1999. If you want to be au courant with modern fiction, you will need to read it...' (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (1999))

`A very impressive first novel ... the story immediately hooks you until the end' (THE TIMES (1999))

An absolutely fantastic story: a cast of weird and wonderful characters, tangled love, secrets and deceits, deaths, and altogether a hugely inventive plot with a twist to beat all twists at the very 11th hour. (OXFORD TIMES) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I am in the little sitting room (in days gone by a dressing room) which connects my bedroom to Sarah's. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By More Than Just a Philosopher on 5 April 2000
Format: Paperback
I started this book on the basis that it was a love story and thinking it would be a light read, but I soon realised that it was a really intense, beautiful read .... I found it a very mature and wise book and was really surprised when I learned the age of the author. I would definitely recommend purely to enjoy the style of writing, which for me conjured up many beautiful images. However, this does not take away the fact that it is also a very interesting plot, so all in all, read it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By alexandria1121 on 4 April 2000
Format: Paperback
It is easy to guess most of the twists in the plot well in advance, but the book is still worth reading, a valiant first attempt by an author of only 21. Naturally, because he is only 21 he has no way of knowing how people really think and act as they get older and how the passions and obsessions of youth lose significance. So, wisely, he spends little time on his characters present (which must be set in about 2035) and much on their youth in the 1990s. It all has a rather old-fashioned air about it - there are up to date trappings like mobile phones but the book could easily have been set in the 1920s with very minor editing. There are few signs of the modern world - only one woman has a career and that's as a dress designer, for example. There are no contemporary references to politics or social trends. Characterisation is rather weak. The hero is so spineless you want to shake him, and it is hard to care much about any of these social parasites. Owes a lot of Agatha Christie and The Forsyte Saga. Nevertheless I will certainly read anything else Richard Mason writes, I have seldom read a first novel so promising.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By SJSmith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 May 2007
Format: Paperback
This was an amazing book to read. I often during reading reflect on the choice of front cover and on this occasion it added to the overall experience. I found the book very moving and one of the few over the years that I would contemplate reading again at some point. I was touched by how sad some of the characters' stories were and how they seemed to have a relevance to moments of my own life and others I know. Not to the extent where I know people who have been in this exact situation but that the emotions experienced echoed other incidents.

At times the prose became a challenge to follow and I lost the thread of the plot - but this did not happen often. I instantly warmed to the characters and found myself forgetting about Sarah, his wife mentioned in the prologue. It was a plot full of twists and turns, designed to fool the reader like a good thriller should. The characters are easy to relate to. I can't say I warmed to all of them but each was unique and brought something special to this tale.

During the novel there were moments where I wanted something pacey to happen (this was the times where I lost my thread) and Richard Mason would simply 'drop' something into the plot that made me sit up and think had I missed something? I hadn't but it was great for refocusing me on what was happening.

Towards the end it became clear who was responsible for what had happened but I still needed to know 'how'. I was captivated right to the very last full stop and I genuinely did not want my reading to end. I found it very difficult to put down and in fact read long into the night to finish it.

A beautiful piece of writing with a poignant title reflecting on each of the characters. A moving front cover that even raises a sad smile as I type this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 May 1999
Format: Hardcover
It is Richard Mason's good fortune that his first novel was always guaranteed to get everyone's attention. When the unpublished 20-year-old undergraduate received a £100,000 advance from Penguin last year, with another half a million coming in foreign rights, The Drowning People became a media event before it had even been written. The young man's misfortune, however, is that his book is impossible to read without the thoughts, "how young?", and "how much?" getting in the way. One soon suspects that Mason anticipated these thoughts. His story is set in the mid-1990s, but is narrated from a future time, by an old man looking back on the black drama of his first love. This enables the protagonist to elaborate at deliberate length on the naive folly of youth, and how little his younger self understood. "At 22, one labours under the illusion that one knows everything," he likes to chide himself. "I was innocent, and innocent of my innocence." The theme of his tender emotional ignorance becomes the pivot on which the plot turns. The device is a neat retort to readers who will wonder what indeed such a young man can know of love, jealousy, and other psychological forces which drive his novel. But the conceit is undermined by an inescapable flaw: Mason concedes the ignorance of youth, but only by appropriating for himself the wisdom of old age. It is a cheeky case of having your humble pie and eating it. Mason should be allowed some cheek, though, for he has written an assured, well-paced and ambitious novel. His hero, a young violinist, falls in love with an enigmatic heiress whose troubled destiny draws him through London, Prague and France to a tragedy of betrayal and death.Read more ›
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