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The Shape of Her [Paperback]

Rowan Somerville
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
Price: £10.71 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

24 Jun 2010
Max and Tine arrive on the Greek island of her childhood holidays. Both are in their mid twenties and this is their first serious relationship. Max is relatively inexperienced with women and his previous encounters have been predominantly sexual. With Tine he feels an emotional bond, and he wants to get to know her better, both sexually and emotionally. It ought to be perfect - a secluded house on a stunning cove; rich local food and wine; swimming, sunbathing. And yet the minute they arrive Tine seems tense. As the days progress, she seems increasingly distant and is obsessed that the house is being watched. The present day is interspersed with scenes from Max's childhood. A talented child from a relatively poor family, he received a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school but nothing has prepared the young boy for the loneliness and vulnerability of living away from his family. Max is dyslexic and soon this creates difficulties with his teachers and his classmates. But when things come to a head, Max finds a way of surviving. Back in the present day, the idyllic holiday seems to be turning into a nightmare. But can Max find a way back to intimacy and overcome the demons of his past?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (24 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297858408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297858409
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 795,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Rowan Somerville investigates cause and effect in obsessive desire. On a Greek island, the novel's sexed-up summer idyll for two privileged youngsters darkens into dread and recrimination... In his novel, unresolved trauma brings its danger to this liaison like the jagged boat-wrecking rock that lurks underwater beyond the golden beach. (Boyd Tonkin INDEPENDENT)

Somerville is clearly a thoughtful writer... a rich plot and some lovely vivid local colour. (GUARDIAN)

Deceptively simple in plot and singularly musical in its voice, it is a study of the place where our past has become our present. A summer read to be kept - and visited in the dark days of winter. (ECONOMIST)

Darkly erotic, offbeat holiday read... an entertaining book that while not echoing to the chimes of chick lit, probably wouldn't be out of place in the beach bag. (IRISH TIMES)

Rowan Somerville is a talented author, perfectly capturing the characters' distinctive voices...The language is gorgeous, rich and evocative...the pacing is perfect. The Shape of Her is dark, beautiful and an ideal summer read. (FOR BOOKS SAKE BLOG) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Two young lovers arrive for an idyllic holiday on a Greek island but find that their shadows from their own past emerge.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed. Reviews shown are from other formats of this item.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sex with adults 22 July 2010
They f*&k you up, your mom and dad .. or at least, adults. A second reading of this book, because it's a slow starter and caught me by surprise. I don't mind slow starters when the payoff is as good as this (Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian was another slow starter). There's a lot of play between sunny surface and what lies beneath here, a play of light and dark as with Joyce's A Portrait, save here it deals with the consequences of enforced juvenile sex. It's why there is a lot of sex to start, sex that should be uninhibited, joyous and youthful discovery, but which is abruptly halted, leaving a perplexed yearning as the characters deal with the suppressed, inchoate past. It's brave, sex being so hard to do in the novel, and the slight feeling of discomfort engendered brings to mind the enforced taboos of society which are complicit in hiding so much abuse. Is it a coincidence that the Author was apparently educated in an Irish Jesuit school? Anyway, the sense of loss of the possibilities of love between the characters at the end is poignant, and you are left wondering whether the gain - the realization of the source of their troubles - is enough, or whether the characters experience of love will be stained forever. Some form of such inhibitions is in all of us, and for that reason alone, it's very much worth the read. With that, the rendering of an idyllic Greece - it's food, colours and people - is lush and inventive, the feeling of sun and sea on the skin almost palpable. It could easily be the best holiday ever ..
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the good shape of her 10 Aug 2010
This is a story very well told and very intense. You can feel the heat and the silences and the confusion of youth, when the scars of childhood are still so raw but one is not yet old enough to even know they exist.
How the very damage that draws one to people is the same shared damage that drives them apart. All brilliantly drawn.
The evocation of the grotesque boarding school was superb and a reminder of the appalling legacy those institutions and 'teachers' inflict on children.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a master of modern english 3 Sep 2010
a beautifully crafted experience of todays lusty young and the influence of childhood experiences -good and bad [very bad] on their adult behaviour.
this brings home the difficulties of growing up in todays world .it captures the romantic beauty of a greek island and escape to happiness which turns out to have dark surprises.
the reality of steamy young love and sexual drive is unusually well portrayed -
thoroughly recommended but demands concentration .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sex and sun 19 Aug 2010
Buy this book - it's a terrific follow up to Somerville's impressive first novel,The End of Sleep. The characters and relationships are beautifully described, and the school stuff is quite brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just the shape of her 23 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A strange title for this novel. While it featured a shapely young woman, it only did so in one of the three narrative strands. There is her relationship with a young man; her childhood; and the early educational experiences of the boy.All three were chilling in the cruelty and indifference they described. The love affair was remarkably done, even if occasionally overblown. Somerville has the rare gift of being able to write convincingly about what is explicitly erotic while generally avoiding absurdity or pornography. The Greek setting is startlingly vivid and the characterization in all three parts disturbingly authentic.

It is not an optimistic book but it is realistic, so compelling that I missed it when I had finished. The selfishness Somerville offers us is distressingly recognizable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Striking, candid 26 Jan 2011
By Juju
This book is an exceptionally candid expression of the emotions and actions that stir from the feelings we would rather repress.
I concede that the style of writing takes a couple of chapters to get swinging. But then again, sometimes so does sex. And when the sex gets real good, why not embrace the memory of the initial fumbles as you lay back aghast, full of love and smug after an orgasm?
If you are the type of person content with humping your rabbit or your page 3, preferably after lashings of bad jokes, then this book is not for you. If you are the type of person that is fascinated by the inner workings of the mind and its far reaching impact in our day to day lives, the type that is brave enough to attempt looking at yourself, then you might well enjoy this book.
The chapters with the girls' flashbacks reminded me of Bonjour Tristesse (Francoise Sagan) in style and topic.
The chapters with the boys' flashbacks reminded me of Portrait of the artist as a young man (James Joyce), but in a far more accessible style of prose.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing, beautiful book! 24 Jun 2010
This author goes from strength to strength in The Shape Of Her. First of all, the style of writing is so fresh and packed with such original images and perspectives, you really get to know these characters intimately. The plot unfolds beautifully and concludes with wisdom and grace. This is one of those books where you can't wait to get home and read it and at times when life is bringing you down the mere thought of returning to it lifts the whole day. Loved it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, affecting and memorable
I thought this to be a superb work. Somerville explores weighty themes with a light and sometimes playful touch. Read more
Published 6 months ago by leofwine
4.0 out of 5 stars A haunting tale of how abuse infects your life
Chilling passages of abuse at a boarding school, cleverly intertwined with how those terrible experiences come to bear on a young man's sexual life. Read more
Published 13 months ago by John Ferundi
3.0 out of 5 stars Meandering start but built up a head of steam
Like other reviewers (generally) I felt that this book took a while to get going which is sometimes a prequel of a fantastic story ahead
The story of Tine (Valentine) and Max... Read more
Published on 27 Sep 2011 by Jonathan Clark
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I cannot understand those reviewers who have given this five stars. I found the novel unoriginal in theme, and in order to get to average novel length a slight plot had to be... Read more
Published on 20 Sep 2010 by C. Bulman
1.0 out of 5 stars I should have sent the book back to Amazon
The book is pure garbage. Both the characters and plot are unbelievable and the sex scenes are boring. Put it the trash can; I did just that. Read more
Published on 18 Aug 2010 by James E. Mckinney
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a great read
Normally I spend part of the summer in Greece. This year I didn't, but having just finished The Shape of Her I feel the Hellenic loss less keenly, while I was immersed in it I... Read more
Published on 10 Aug 2010 by Roper Walken
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