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The Lay of the Land [Paperback]

Richard Ford
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

18 Jun 2007
It is fall, 2000 and Frank Bascombe has arrived at a state of optimistic pragmatism that he calls the Permanent Period of life. Epic mistakes have already been made, dreams downsized, and Frank reflects that now at least there are fewer opportunities left in life to get things wrong. But the tranquillity he anticipated is not to be. In fact, as Thanksgiving dinner with his children and first wife nears, the Permanent Period proves as full of possibility as life had ever been. In his third Frank Bascombe novel, Richard Ford contemplates the human character with wry precision. Graceful, expansive, filled with pathos but irresistibly funny, "The Lay of the Land" is a modern American masterpiece.

Frequently Bought Together

The Lay of the Land + Independence Day + The Sportswriter
Price For All Three: £20.27

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (18 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747585997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747585992
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`A massive, ruminative, poignant and cathartic novel ... it is a
masterly account of a modulating adult life ... astonishingly vivid' -- Independent on Sunday

`Engaging, brilliant, hugely sad and, of course, ultimately
uplifting. As with the other two, I'll read it again and again' -- William Leith, Evening Standard

`Sublime ... a richly textured, rolling and poetic voice' -- The Times

`The Lay of the Land confirms his status as one of the modern
American masters'
-- David Robson, Sunday Telegraph

`Wistful, bittersweet - and often very funny ... all the quiet
despairs and hopes of the human condition' -- Daily Telegraph

From the Publisher

This is the follow-up to Ford's most acclaimed novels, both
featuring Frank Bascombe: The Sportswriter and Independence Day.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frank enters the Permanent Period 17 Jun 2007
Lay of the Land is the third novel in which Richard Ford charts the life of Frank Bascombe. Frank is now in his fifties, and is a realtor (an estate agent) on the coast of New Jersey. He is in his second marriage and in the throes of what he calls the "Permanent Period", that stage of life where most things that can go wrong have already gone wrong, and where generally speaking things don't get messed up any more - at least in the catastrophic way that earlier stages are subject too.

Needless to say, the Permanent Period turns out to be no protection from family squalls and rifts, and even second marriages, seemingly so settled can go badly and unexpectedly wrong. And then there's always prostate cancer, to make sure that Frank has to make adjustments to those areas of his life so far unaffected.

The charm of this novel, like its predecessors, is that nothing much happens. Frank is allowed to tell his story in his usual meandering way. A trip into town can give rise to pages of observations and reflections, somewhat in the way of W G Sebald, or even Marcel Proust. What makes this work is that Frank has a wondrously philosophical attitude to life, not one that insulates him from problems, but one which enables him to interpret them and live through them in an almost Buddhist way, where trouble is rarely confronted full on, but rather side-stepped and averted by Frank's huge tolerance and patience. The reader finds him/herself drifting along with Frank, and can find himself saying, hey, this approach might work with me too, if only I wasn't so uptight and frantic. Richard Ford has cast Frank's real-estate assistant as a Tibetan Buddhist immigrant, called (unusually) Mike Mahoney.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frank is Rich 12 Nov 2007
Proof (if proof were needed) that Ford can be bracketed with Roth, Bellow and Updike as exponents of the extended 20th century Great American Novel. On meeting, Ford's southern charm is evident, but his famously prickly hubris and hauteur has made him less prolific than his forebears and contemporaries. Though his recent 'Women with Men' garnered deservedly mixed reviews, here, with the effort evident on each page, Ford delivers one of the most enjoyable and insightful books of the last decade. There is an original use of language and phraseology, a modernity which to some extent alienates us from his 60ish narrator but distances Ford from his competition.

Frank (ex-'Sportswriter') Bascombe is not - as Ford rightly denies - an alter ego, though both live on the East Coast and are comfortably late middle-aged. Frank now is seriously wealthy, rocketing property prices inflating the value of both his NJ shore real estate business and his own ocean view mansion. Counterpointing this are continuing unresolved issues, this novel being set (like the Faulkner / Pulitzer winning 'Independence Day') around a traditional holiday where Frank's age and sentimentalism augurs a crisis.

Frank's prolonged internal soliloquy takes up most of the wordage. It contains some of the most sublime self-consciousness, and self-deception. He is successful, gung-ho and energetic. Money is made and lost almost carelessly. But while he has a peripatetic business partner, his life partners are estranged, and his children distant and bewildering. His failing health is a critical subtext: Frank has prostate cancer (treatable).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lay of Middle Age 20 Aug 2008
The Lay of the Land is the third and final in the Frank Bascombe trilogy by Richard Ford. Frank is now 55 but still as introspective and self indulgent as ever. Life has moved on, and as well as his first ex-wife Ann he now has a second, Sally, who has flown the nest under bizarre circumstances. Frank has done well from real estate and is now comfortably off in financial terms, but he is as wrapped up in himself as ever. He has had a health fright which haunts him, and ponders endlessly about his life.

The novel spans a few days around Thanksgiving in 2000 at the New Jersey shore where Frank now lives.
His two adult children - his adored daughter Clarissa and his socially awkward son Paul - are due round for Thanksgiving dinner with their respective partners. Frank is tying up loose ends before Thanksgiving: seeing to some business with his real estate employee Mike Mahoney, meeting with Ann, doing his good deed bit as a Sponsor (a sort of pop in pop out Samaritan for those whose angst is mild rather than of suicidal proportions). And since Frank has an impending visit to the Mayo Clinic shortly after Thanksgiving, where his health problem (treatable prostatic cancer) will be reviewed, these few days also serve as time to remenesce about his life and revisit old haunts.

As with the previous two novels in the Frank Bascombe series, it is difficult to ascertain how much of Frank's often long-winded self absorption is intended to be staggeringly me-me-me obsessed and how much Richard Ford feels is normal or even admirable. At over 700 pages, the novel is long and it takes time to get into the self-mulling style of it; to adapt to Frank-think where every part of his life is analyzed, categorized and labelled, but in a peculiarly un self-critical way.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 15 days ago by Charles Murray
4.0 out of 5 stars Ruminations On Mortality
This 2006 novel by Richard Ford is the 3rd (and final) in the series charting the ruminations of ex-sportswriter, now real estate salesman Frank Bascombe, and set in modern day... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Keith M
5.0 out of 5 stars Ford trilogy
This is a quite brilliant trilogy and although Independence day is the star I found the whole series really interesting, touching, sad and funny
Published 16 months ago by docM
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
thanks - this is a great book to read and read again. i will start the book for the 2nd time very very soon
Published 17 months ago by Mr. Anthony J. Hume
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
Perfect - just like the previous 2 books in this trilogy.
The very best of modern American literature.
Guaranteed to be read again and again
Published 18 months ago by Paul Cunningham
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading.
We have purchased 2 more books of the same author. They all provide good reading experiences. Especially for serious aspirants for writing profession, this author provides good... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Adlerinternational
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lay of the Land
Another stunning bit of writing from Richard Ford. You suspect that this trilogy has become his life's work. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2010 by Dave Gilmour's cat
5.0 out of 5 stars last and best
The third and final instalment in the life of Frank Bascombe - and much the most enjoyable. Frank's moral shortcomings as husband (first instalment) and father (second instalment)... Read more
Published on 8 Sep 2009 by William Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, funny, poignant, and highly recommended
Frank Bascombe, the narrator of THE LAY OF THE LAND is a successful residential real estate agent who finds the experience of selling real estate both empowering and beneficent. Read more
Published on 25 Aug 2009 by Ethan Cooper
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh no, more middle-aged American Angst
Another dreary, depressing and predictable depiction of the middle-aged American male mind. It's all been done before by Mailer, Roth, Updike, Heller, Bellow etc. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2009 by John Fitzpatrick
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