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The Locust Room Paperback – 24 May 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd (24 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224052926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224052924
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Burnside has published seven works of fiction and eleven collections of poetry, including his Selected Poems, published by Cape in 2006. His memoir, A Lie About My Father, was published in the same year to enormous critical acclaim, and was chosen as the Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book of the Year and the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year.

Product Description


"The Locust Room is a dark, tense, exquisitely cruel, painfully tender novel. It intrigues" The Times "A subtle, finely observed mediation on male relationships" Daily Mail "The Locust Room is thoughtful, provocative in the best sense, and ultimately moving. It is Burnside at this best. And that is very good indeed" Glasgow Herald

From the Publisher

Burnside’s finest – and most disturbing – novel since The Dumb House. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
There is something very sorry and sad about this book. The protagonist imagines that only an estrangement from the world, the virtual disappearance of the self, can bring fulfilment. Yet how can one reconcile this contradiction which involves a denial of one's own humanity and all that makes one human and fallible - capable of good as well as evil?

The book covers the time of the Cambridge Rapist (was this the 70s or early 80s?), and examines the feminist argument that all men are potential rapists. Of course all men are potential rapists. We all have the potential for anything, it's called free will. Duh!

The book looks at some of these existential problems and attendant ones such as the way religion pervades our thinking. A salient point raised by Burnside relates by an imaginative leap to the central principle of free will. "Why," he asked as a child, "When God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, did he also banish the innocent animals?" The animals hadn't tasted the tree of knowledge after all. Answer - came there none, of course. Try explaining that to your average five year-old.

The plot to this novel seesaws from the protagonist's dissolute love affair, to the mysterious personality of his best friend, to the notion that one or other of his acquaintances might be the Cambridge Rapist.

None of this seemed to matter much and I would agree with another reviewer's carp about Burnside's lack of humour. The book's potential fizzled out somehow; a pity, because Burnside writes with an unusual amount of depth and density.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Self on 22 May 2002
Format: Paperback
I've just finished John Burnside's The Locust Room, which has a superb opening scene, from the point of view of an intruder ("He was sitting in a chair, opposite the bed. The girl he had chosen was still asleep, totally unaware of his presence in the room."), which tells so much in so few words and absolutely compels you to read on.
Unfortunately the book doesn't stand up to closer examination, and remarkably - for a book which centres on the reign of terror of a rapist in the dingy bedsits of 70s Cambridge - its greatest sin is banality. Like his last novel, and the first in his "Definite Article Noun Noun" series, The Mercy Boys, it professes to be an examination of male relationships, but all my bells remained resolutely unrung. And it was far too conscious in its renderings: pages and pages of the central character's thoughts and responses laid plainly on the page - whatever happened to show, don't tell? - and made all the worse for their sheer dullness. The dad who liked a bit of space from the wife; arguments on "all men are rapists"/"Oh no they aren't"; autistic blokey chat: nothing new here resides.

I only kept reading because of the pedigree of Burnside's The Dumb House (the excellent book about a man who keeps his children in isolation to see if language is innate, where the quality is maintained after the cracking start: "No one could say it was my choice to kill the twins, any more than it was my decision to bring them into the world. ...
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 22 May 2002
Format: Paperback
I had imagined that this book would be more focussed around the story of the rapist, from whose vantage point you are delivered a scene of just one of the attacks. However, it is rather more catalytic, more instrumental in mapping out the other characters and their interrelationships. It is an interesting device, providing a central place from which to explore those that populate this novel and creates an extraordinary backdrop. The rapist story is one that is not quite obviously resolved, but does not leave you feeling unsatisfied. It works.
Our chief protagonist, the photographer, is beautifully detailed, we inhabit his head for much of the novel and he becomes a fascinating friend that we are concerned about. John Burnside presents a solitary character that is capable of deep introspection resulting in the discovery of painful and ultimately liberating truths. He is a man who searches out the beauty and filth of life and his camera is instrumental in the viewing and capture of these scenes. His quest for the perfect picture reveals much about him, about his depths, but also his shallows. There is throughout, an extensive inquisition into the nature of solitude, of feeling outside of things, of the difference between aloneness and loneliness. We are led to explore what it means to be human and the many facets and difficulties of being a self sufficient individual. His thoughts and feelings are exquisitely captured and the details of his relationship with his parents, in particular, with his father are profoundly moving.
The characters move, change and swiftly develop throughout to become full and rounded; each with some fascinating aspect to their personality, but not in the least contrived. They exhibit the kind of fluidity that people do in real life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
No surprise the author's a poet 26 Sept. 2002
By Chris Ward - Published on
Format: Paperback
After reading this book, it came as no surprise to find John Burnside had published 7 previous collections of poetry. The book is eloquence itself, written in a style that makes the very reading of the words a pleasure.
But, like poetry often is, it is one of those books where you emerge at the end wondering just exactly what happened, what it is you are supposed to have gained from the experience.
It is essentially about the central character's coming of age, but so often I found little pockets building up to something only to suddenly become forgotten as the author moved us on to somewhere else. Without doubt this was the intention, for the author is obviously adequately skilled to provide us with the landscape he sees in his head. Only problem for me, was that it all seemed too clever. I wanted more from the rapist, more from the central character's crazy housemate, than the loose subplots and flat phazings out that we received.
I don't know, maybe I wanted too much. Good, and I certainly felt moved by reading it, but can't shake the feeling that, although the book may have reached its logical conclusion from the author's point of view, the reader might want more.
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