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The Society of Others [Hardcover]

William Nicholson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 2004
He has nowhere to go. So he goes there. The narrator of THE SOCIETY OF OTHERS is an alienated young man who sees no meaning in life. He doesn't even see the point of getting out of bed in the morning. To get his family off his back, he embarks on an aimless hitchhiking adventure around Europe. But his journey soon turns into an orgy of violence. With all the pace and thrust of a thriller, THE SOCIETY OF OTHERS is also a moral fable, bursting with art, poetry, music and ideas. A journey. Just not the usual kind. I'm not a bad person. I'm a bad person. I didn't mean to kill the man in the reading room. I did mean to kill the man in the reading room. What happened afterwards wasn't my fault, don't blame me. It was my fault. Blame me. He has nowhere to go. So he goes there. It's a journey. Just not the usual kind.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385606826
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845057046
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,421,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Nicholson was born in 1948 and received his early education at Downside School, a Roman Catholic monastic school, set in the countryside near Bath.

He went on to study English Literature at Christ's College, Cambridge, graduating with a double First Class degree in 1970. After leaving university, William joined BBC television, where he worked as a documentary film maker. It was not long before William's talent was channelled into writing for television dramas and his professional writing career took off.

William is perhaps best known as an acclaimed Hollywood screenwriter, whose work includes Elizabeth: The Golden Age, the Bafta award-winning Shadowlands, and Oscar-winning Gladiator.

He has written several screenplays for films due for future release, including Long Walk to Freedom, an adaptation of Nelson Mandela's autobiography.

Nicholson's first trilogy for young readers, The Wind on Fire, met with universal acclaim. Winner of the Smarties Gold Award and the Blue Peter Book Award. Nicholson's latest trilogy the Noble Warriors has also been enthusiastically received. The final book Noman is published on 4th September 2007:

'The events rip along, but the real strength of Nicholson's novel lies in its wonderful characters: Morning Star, drowning in the power of her love for Wildman, and Echo Kittle, captured by the enemy of Orlans' Daily Telegraph

His latest book, the highly anticipated Rich and Mad is a compelling and beautifully written novel about first love, first sex, and everything in-between.

Nicholson has been cited as one of the most gifted and imaginative writers alive in the world today. His adult titles include The Trial of True Love and The Society of Others.

William lives in Sussex with his wife Virginia, and their three children.

Product Description


'A novel that demands attention. William Nicholson is someone we are going to hear a good deal more about.' -- Catholic Herald

'An intriguing story, a suburban drama that quickly unfolds into a surreal tale with big ideas and meaning...Thought-provoking.' -- Daily Mirror

'Exciting, funny, wise and beautifully written ... One of the best novelists around.' -- Piers Paul Reed, Spectator

'Extraordinary, a sort of wild combination of Kafka and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE ... The reader will not escape unchanged.' -- Jill Paton Walsh

'Extraordinary...a sort of wild combination of Kafka and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE...The reader will not escape unchanged.' -- Jill Paton Walsh

'Vastly ambitious...Thrilling in every sense, but also hypnotic, fast-moving and intellectually challenging...quite staggeringly good.' -- Geoffrey Wansell, Daily Mail

‘Nicholson describes it as ‘a thriller about the meaning of life’, and that’s pretty accurate ... A genuinely though-provoking read.’ -- Mail on Sunday

Book Description

First adult novel by the bestselling children's author of THE WIND SINGER. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasing mixed bag 16 May 2005
By A Customer
Sometimes you don't choose books, they choose you. So it was with this, a thought-provoking novel that I had never read a review of, never seen, never knew about and whose author was unknown to me. I was browsing a local bookstore, found it staring up at me, read the blurb on the back about a young man (I am one), on a journey through Europe (which I am considering), who finds himself in a Kafkaesque nightmare (I hope I don't!) and rethinks his life (would be nice). So I bought it, and I honestly can hand-on-heart tell you that it has made me completely reassess my relationships with pretty much everybody I know. My family all of a sudden look a great deal better than they did 2 days ago - it sounds callous, but my love and respect for them has grown. I read this book in two sittings, the only reason it took that long was I had to go away and think about some of the story before being prepared to continue.
As a story, Society of Others starts out in a rather plodding way. The first chapter or two there are undertones of that "I want to win a Booker"-style: young man, disenfranchished with life, dislikes his family, life has no direction, etc. I thought I could smell the rest of the story from there. I think at this point I only put the effort in continuing because I related to the character. I underestimated Nicholson as a writer, that isn't where this book heads.
The story isn't like that at at all. It's insane. It's beautiful. It makes no sense, and yet that's the point. In the early chapters there were the subtle undertones of an influence from Banks' 'The Wasp Factory' which were all another red herring (or were they?). It all starts to get uneven, unsettling, unsure... I think that's the point.
The influences here are wide and varied.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Society of Others 17 Feb 2012
By Osi
I first read this book in 2005 and have re-read it ten times since. It's a truly magnificent, thought provoking read and should be issued to all 18yr olds by right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fleeing for his life across a ploughed field 3 Oct 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Wallowing in a warm bath of existential angst, the un-named 20 year-old narrator of The Society of Others does not appreciate anything around him - his loving family, his privileged education, his relative wealth, etc., he is just not impressed with being alive. He can barely be bothered to get out of bed in the morning. And then he decides on a whim to set off on an adventure. His father has given him some money to spend however he likes, so he decides to hitch-hike and leave it in the hands of fate where he will end up.

That's how he meets Marker, a Belgian lorry driver, and how he fetches up in a Communist country fleeing for his life across a ploughed field when Marker's lorry is stopped by the police. From there, the events of this novel take on a surreal edge. He is plunged into a series of almost clichéd situations (getting involved in a `terrorist' gang, rescued by simple peasants, saved by an English-speaking school-teacher - it sometimes reads like the kind of thriller you buy in an airport when you're desperate for something to keep your mind off the corporeality of the self in relation to several tons of metal and air), but somehow you keep reading. The power of art - books, poetry, music, painting - runs through this novel in multiple strands as, again and again our protagonist is thrown up against questions of philosophy, religion and what it means to be alive. Thus we have the strange juxtaposition of thriller action, along with surprisingly involving intellectual and artistic propositions.

I am impatient with novels which refuse to name the protagonist of their story (why not just call him Joe or Jack and have done with it!), and wary of books which purport to impart to their reader messages of great philosophical meaning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Society of Others spoke more to me than anything else I've read in a decade. While it works at a plethora of levels, it is essentially about individuals and their relationship with their State, political entities that (worldwide) may be seen as increasingly controlling, interventionist, repressive and dehumanising. It dawns on you, as the journey unfolds, that the Stalinesque/Mugabe-ish state in which the central character finds himself marooned is your country, no matter where you are and that our salvation, as human beings, resides in our relationships and capacity to value the wonder to be found in others. A minor masterpiece. The publishers would do well to send every head of state a copy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd 29 April 2007
Mr. Nicholson decides to leave The Society of Others' main character nameless, and this seems to suit him. He, the main character, starts the story as an aimless twenty/thirtysomething. His philosophy of apathy sees him locked away from the world in his bedroom at his parents' house, spending his days with the television on, but the sound down.

The story kicks into gear when the desire grabs the character, of a sudden, to get out of the house and away. Not to go anywhere in particular, but just to travel for the sake of it. This new, no-strings wanderlust sees him dumped in an East European country - again, unnamed - of the decaying, former Soviet variety. Against this backdrop, one of a violent police/gangster state and a backroom rebellious intelligenstia, our character goes through a series of personal revelations and 'awakenings'. Overlaid on this is a higher, more peculiar sense that he's seen all of this before, despite never having come to the country previously.

The tale thunders along, gathering pace from the brilliantly observed mundanity at the beginning of the book, to a ludicrous, psychedelic/existential unravelling at the end. It's this, the book's bodge-it-and-run end, which has cost the rating I've given the book a good two stars. It left me wondering precisely what the author's point was and whether he was unable to cope with the drive and scope of his own writing to that point.

In spite of this, Mr. Nicholson wins back an extra star or two because his book has the magic cannot-put-down factor which is surely the ultimate test of any novel. His writing has an irresistable pace and energy. It's a shame, then, that this momentum peters out in such a diffuse and puzzling way.

It's testement to Mr.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Am I dreaming?
I read this because a columnist on The Daily Telegraph over Christmas wrote how much she likes Nicholson, and I was in for a surprise, if not a shock. Read more
Published on 13 Jan 2012 by W. A. Featherby
3.0 out of 5 stars society of others
Begins well but soon becomes quite surreal and strange. Not sure I'd recommend it to everyone but it is very different and worth reading for that reason.
Published on 27 Feb 2011 by Linda S. Bryant
2.0 out of 5 stars art dreaming
I enjoyed spotting the paintings in this book from his descriptions of being in several pictures. This was fun but the ending disappointed me. Too surreal.
Published on 29 Jun 2009 by P. Blair
2.0 out of 5 stars could have been better
this book could have been so much better than it was. it started off well but gradually slid into the absurd and unrealistic. Read more
Published on 26 Oct 2005 by pheonix
2.0 out of 5 stars Sixth form philosophy
I thought this book started out rather well as a picture of a young man grappling with Camusian absurdity. Read more
Published on 2 Sep 2005 by Young Offender
2.0 out of 5 stars Profound reading for children
I cannot believe the amount of praise this book has received. I finished it last night and am numb with apathy. Read more
Published on 10 July 2005 by P. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable!
One of the best books i have read for ages, so far removed from the 'wind on fire' trilogy it reads almost like a different author. Read more
Published on 10 Jan 2005 by "magicweasel"
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey of a lifetime.
A series of most beautifully written surprises. Bored, aimless, the central character sets out and takes with him the lucky reader. Read more
Published on 30 Mar 2004
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