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The Language of Others [Paperback]

Clare Morrall
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 Oct 2008

The world is a puzzling, sometimes frightening place for Jessica Fontaine. As a child she only finds contentment in playing the piano and wandering alone in the empty spaces of Audlands Hall, the dilapidated country house where she grows up.

Twenty-five years later, divorced, with her son still living at home, Jessica remains preoccupied by the desire to create space around her. Then her volatile ex-husband reappears, the first of several surprises that both transform Jessica's present and give her a startling new perspective on the past.

THE LANGUAGE OF OTHERS tells the absorbing story of a woman who spends much of her life feeling that she is out of step with the real world, until she discovers why. Related with humour and compassion, it offers a fresh, illuminating insight into what it means to be normal.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (16 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340896671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340896679
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 415,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


It's the warmth and roundedness of her characters that give Morrall's novels their appeal . . . THE LANGUAGE OF OTHERS offers a suspenseful tale with a taut, spare style and real emotional impact. In this and in its brave challenge to our assumptions about what it means to be normal it's a more than worthy shelfmate to Astonishing Splashes of Colour. (Guardian)

A story of self-discovery, of difficult family relationships and redemptive friendships that slips between past and present and unfolds not so much a coming-of-age as a coming-to-understanding . . . An enjoyable, engrossing read (Independent)

A writer with a phenomenal imagination and power with words (Scotsman)

Pacy with an intriguing plot, Morrall has produced a joyful novel . . . Morrall combines thoughtful, satisfying writing with an accessible style. Expect plaudits all round. (Birmingham Post)

'Enthralling' (Irish Times)

She [Morrall] also has a talent for making characters who might ordinarily alienate readers seem appealing, funny and moving. The result is a surprisingly joyful novel (Daily Mail)

Not only very readable, but very moving; a funny, and occasionally sad, account of what it feels like to be outside the norm (The Times)

Subtle and absorbing . . . Morrall has a talent for making pitiable characters triumphantly sympathetic (Guardian)

Morrall's rewarding third novel combines strong characters and vital evocations of place with a greater psychological intensity (Financial Times)

Book Description

The wise, warm story of a woman negotiating her way through life without realising she doesn't understand the rules of the game, by the Booker-shortlisted author of Astonishing Splashes of Colour

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, funny and thought-provoking 14 Feb 2009
An enjoyable novel that will probably prompt you to think twice about any assumptions you make about family, relationships and mental health.

Clare Morrall is obviously very good at being thought-provoking without being po-faced - I found this novel funny, moving and a satisfying read.

Without wanting to give too much away, The Language of Others centres on a very appealing main character (Jessica) who has always felt a bit out of step with the rest of the world in a way she can't place. Surrounded from childhood by bullying cousins, a sister she can't relate to, and eventually a domineering but compelling husband, she struggles to understand why everyone is behaving in such inexplicable ways.

I sat in an airport cafe, reading occasionally and then looking around me and wondering about what exactly 'normal' is meant to be. Sometimes the book made me laugh out loud, which must surely have made my fellow travellers wonder whether I was! An interesting topic, fleshed out by Morrall into a novel that's funny, thought-provoking and compassionately written.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing read 17 Oct 2008
By AlexM
This book was hard to put down... until I realised that if I carried reading so quickly I would reach the end too soon. Fortunately it stayed with me for a long time.
Morrall retains her rare talent for being funny, witty, and a very good read, while still being intellectually stimulating to the deeper reader. Nice to see subjects such as asperger's syndrome approached from such a positive light.... all those wonderfully colourful characters brightening up the streets of Birmingham.. can't wait to see the next one....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly touching 22 Jun 2012
Jessica is a reserved child, whose world unexpectedly opens up when she learns to play the piano. She falls in love with a selfish, angry violin prodigy who struggles to find meaning in life after he petulantly discards his violin. Jessica and Andrew raise a child, Joel, who is as distant and awkward as both his parents, but conceals a genius only his mother can see.

With a cast of characters whose hackles are permanently raised, it might seem hard to see how a reader's affection for them could grow, but as I neared the end of this novel, I was a little shocked by how much the story moved me, and how successfully, gradually, the barriers have been broken down.

Genetics, family, parenthood, love: this tender novel exploring the impact of undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome shows there's no rulebook to follow, but different doesn't necessarily mean wrong. I actually preferred it to the author's highly acclaimed, Booker-shortlisted debut, Astonishing Splashes of Colour.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best yet 24 May 2009
I've read all three of Clare's books and loved them but this is the best yet - I await the fourth with impatience! The characters evoke emotion (not always positively!) and understanding in the reader. There is such sadness, yet the writing never lets you feel too burdened by it as Clare's style is witty and clever. I loved the dawning of comprehension in the main character and the great sense of hope which snowballs through the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Language of Others 2 May 2011
An extraordinary insight into the lives of families who have an Aspergers Member, but also how they can all be effected by the condition. Set in Birmingham University, and using the Barber Institute as one of the settings, this shows family relationships, what some people do for love. I enjoyed the insights and the story. Helen Lunt, Somerset, UK.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting... 23 Mar 2009
This is the first book I have read by this author and ordinarily I wouldn't have picked this up in a bookshop but it was recommended by a friend, so I started.....
You follow the main character, Jessica, as she struggles through her bad relationship with her sister, her cousins, her husband and then her son. It seems that she can't relate to anyone. This book explores an interesting topic in a slightly different way. After Jessica found out why she was behaving in a certain way, things became clearer to her (and me!). Jessica is a strong character that passes through life with only a small circle of friends and a part-time job in a library. With that and her music (she plays piano), she is happy, mostly. An interesting and thought-provoking read. I will read more by this author now.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and rich family drama 26 Nov 2013
Clare Morrall is one of the great and gripping literary authors of our time and I have absolutely no idea why more people don't read her. This book is rich in poetry and character development, and the unique main character is a real treasure. Family life has never seemed so foreign and yet so strangely necessary.

That said, the mystery of why Jessica is how she is turns out to be no great mystery at all as I'd understood it by the end of the first chapter - but the interest lies in the character herself and how she comes to terms with her life. Oh, and the dying country house she grows up in and never really leaves is utterly magnificent in every way.

I loved it.
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The main character relates to colours for situations and feelings which I believe has some resemblance in life, just not sure about this book and sometimes difficult to understand.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it...
I read it twice, enjoyed it both times and saw different things in it both times!
It's a lovely book with very real characters - very human characters that you can identify... Read more
Published on 23 Aug 2011 by Sally Ann
2.0 out of 5 stars I found this very boring.
The reviewer who wrote this book is a bit boring was being kind, in my opinion. It was very boring for me... Read more
Published on 10 May 2011 by mmrich
1.0 out of 5 stars An affront
This was indeed a dull story, which didn't seem to have any point other than to 'cash in on' the topicality of Asperger's Syndrome, now that so many more people have heard of it... Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2010 by Molly Edric
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit boring
I picked this book because of all of the positive ratings it had received. However, I found it quite dull and ungripping, despite reading it on holiday which is when I get most... Read more
Published on 29 Oct 2009 by A. Ryan
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather dull
My views on this book are strongly influenced by my dislike of female characters who allow themselves to be walked all over by anyone and everyone. Read more
Published on 11 Oct 2009 by Hel S
5.0 out of 5 stars Unabridged audiobook.
This was a fascinating study of relationships within a family that has to cope with some fairly common mental health problems. Read more
Published on 11 Sep 2009 by DubaiReader
2.0 out of 5 stars the language of others
This book was chosen by my book group. I must admit, I was disappointed and didn't think it was particularly well-written. Read more
Published on 25 Feb 2009 by Ms. Jill M. Adamson
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