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Umbrella Hardcover – 16 Aug 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; First Edition edition (16 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1408820145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408820148
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 3.8 x 15.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 147,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

In these culturally straitened times few writers would have the artistic effrontery to offer us a novel as daring, exuberant and richly dense as Umbrella. Will Self has carried the Modernist challenge into the twenty-first century, and worked a wonder (John Banville)

Umbrella is his best book yet ... It makes new for today the lessons taught by the morals of Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, The Tin Drum, also Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Alasdair Gray)

Self has never been shortlisted for the Booker, but Umbrella is such a linguistically adept, emotionally subtle and ethically complex novel that this could and should be his year (Guardian)

A tour de force ... Despite the bleakness of the message, by the end you are filled with elation at the author's exuberant ambition and the swaggering way he carries it all off, and then a huge sense of deflation at the realisation that whatever book you read next, it won't be anything like this (Daily Mail)

A dazzling feat of imagination and structure: a sprawling, lyrical, stream-of-consciousness narrative that squares up to modernism and brings it kicking and screaming into the 21st century ... stomach-lurchingly ambitious (Observer)

The reader is snagged on moments of brilliance and, most thrilling of all, left to make her own connections (Daily Telegraph)

A superbly realised exemplar of an older and rarer genre - a metaphysical novel in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, exploring the evanescence of consciousness in a material world that can never be finally understood (New Statesman, Books of the Year)

Umbrella is a magnificent celebration of modernist prose, an epic account of the first world war, a frightening investigation into the pathology of mental illness ... must be recognised as, above all, a virtuoso triumph of emotional and creative intelligence (Spectator)

Kind of amazing ... It may not be his easiest, but I think this may be Will Self's best book (Sam Leith, Observer)

Ambitious and mind-blowing linguistic tapestry of a novel

(Independent on Sunday)

Amazing - it's like a different creature altogether (Alison Moore, The Observer)

Passionate and melancholic (Times Literary Supplement)

A high-spirited footnote to the modernism of James Joyce, this fascinating literary experiment came tantalisingly close to winning the 2012 Booker prize ... Umbrella is one of the most exhilarating "difficult" books published for many years ... Rarely has a historic novel provided such a challenge

(Observer)

He succeeds beautifully, writing with a new sophistication. The result is a stunning novel, and a compelling Self-reinvention (Independent on Sunday)

Extraordinary (The Lady)

By the end you are filled with elation at the author's exuberant ambition and the swaggering way he carries it all off, and then a huge sense of deflation at the realisation that whatever book you read next, it won't be anything like this (Daily Mail)

An ebullient, seductive, virtuoso display of imaginative prose which, if you have the stamina, is truly mind-blowing [...] wonderfully achieved. If I was on the panel I would vote for its Falstaffian audacity and wayward charm (Robert McCrum, Observer)

Time slips, perspectives shift and the book's wormhole dance is dazzling (Financial Times, Books of the Year)

Self is the Marmite of contemporary fiction - some find his verbal fireworks show-offy, others love his anarchic sheer bloody brilliance ... His playful way with language and layout is unstoppably entertaining (Kate Saunders, The Times)

His deepest and most rewarding novel to date. Madness, war, mechanisation; class, feminism and modernity - all these and more are interrogated in a dense slab of prose that spans the 20th century and jumps from one consciousness to another in the high old modernist style (Guardian, Books of the Year)

Will Self finds his authentic voice as a writer and reclaims the high modernist mode as a natural and highly emotional form of narration. It's exhilarating for that reason ... Once you get used to it, it's not at all difficult to read (Jonathan Coe, Metro)

A wonderful piece of sustained writing and passion. Just dive in and let it take you to good places (A. L. Kennedy, Scotsman Books of the Year)

Books of the Year (Boyd Tonkin, Independent)

An ambitious and sophisticated book about memory and the human brain that - with its shifting time frames, flipping points of view and voices in various heads - in no way advertised its ease for the reader (Daily Telegraph)

A fun book, endearingly self-satisfied. It is difficult not to enjoy its tricks and bravura flourishes (Eileen Battersby, Irish Times Book of the Year)

Extravagant, imaginative and utterly bonkers: Self's best yet (Observer)

Book Description

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2012

The major new novel by the author of Great Apes, How the Dead Live and The Book of Dave


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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Doyen on 4 Dec. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I picked this up to read on the commute to and from work, which was a mistake. This is not a book that one can easily dip in and out of, and the total immersion required to make the most of it is inconsistent with the constant distractions of a crowded train. However, this is not a criticism of the book itself, which, whilst certainly challenging at times, represents the rare combination of a compelling narrative wrapped in an artful and innovative prose style. Does it err into pretentiousness at times? Yes, in spades; but anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds listening to Will Self on almost any subject should come to this book adequately steeled for that, and while there is a certain amount of intellectual masturbation here, I found I could overlook that in my appreciation of an original and effective style. I also learned, as others on here have already said, that once you stop trying to wring some precise sense out of every word and simply let the stream of consciousness wash over you - in essence, once you start to read the book as it was written - you quickly become absorbed into the flow of the story. Overall, I found the book interesting more than enjoyable. Both my personal reading history and the literary canon generally are doubtless the richer for this book, but Umbrella is heavy going and while I appreciate the experience, it has not whetted my appetite to explore any of Self's other work any time soon.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By quillpen on 5 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
This modernist and stream of consciousness novel will not be to everyone's taste. If you need the 'permission' of a chapter end to stop reading, then either don't read this book, or start reading it surrounded by extensive supplies of food and drink and with a toilet close at hand. There are no chapters, no parts, not even a few handy blank lines, just a constant flow of sentences. Treat these sentences like a wonderful word tapestry being woven by Audrey Death, her brother Stanley and Dr Zach Busner, using threads from Edwardian London, the horrors of the World War 1 trenches, and 1970s & 1990s London, and you can start to relax and comprehend what Self is trying to say. I fought this book initially, wanting desperately to understand who and when I was in each sentence before moving onto the next one. In the end, I learnt to absorb long sections and trust that afterwards I would have a sense of what had happened in each of the story lines, which ultimately are one story line.

It's hard work, but worth every moment if you want to reflect on how we are so careless with our fellow human beings.
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126 of 155 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Will Self's "Umbrella" spans a century taking three interwoven strands. One features Audrey Dearth, who in 1918 is a munitions worker who falls ill with encephalitis lethargica, a brain disease that spread over Europe after the Great War rendering many of its victims speechless and motionless. She is incarcerated in Friern hospital where, in the early 1970s a psychiatrist, Zach Busner wakes her from her stupor using a new drug. In the final thread, in 2010 the asylum has closed and the now retired Busner travels across north London seeking the truth about his encounter with his former patient. While that sounds like a fascinating story in its own right, be warned. Self's approach is ambitiously modernistic making this a very heavy going tome even by Self's standards.

Stream of consciousness books can be challenging but good, non-linear books can be confusing but illuminating. Taken together though they are a mess that no amount of clever word play can rescue.

The narrative is a stream of consciousness epic that doesn't break for silly ideas like chapters, or even many paragraphs, most of which last for two or three pages each. Similarly there is no chronological development or discernable structure and time frames and points of view are spliced together, often within the same paragraph. Most of us don't have the luxury of endless hours in which to read and have to fit reading in around life, necessitating putting a book down at some point. Quite where you are supposed to do this in "Umbrella" is a bit of a mystery. Although picking the book up again was more of a challenge than putting it down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. Taylor on 2 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I know Mr Self is an incredibly clever man but I found this book far too confusing. It jumps around from character to character in a way that is not clear. The language used is somewhat arcane and quite frankly unnecessary.
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By JonoBB on 29 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
I have never had to urge myself on to finish a book as much as this, but I am glad I did. The stream of consciousness writing style is something I had never encountered before (and not sure I would like to again) but it did suit the book. The narrative jumps from character to different generations to different locations effortlessly and can make it difficult to follow but it just works and is a testament to the writing. Although I'm not eager to read it again I did enjoy it, if you want something different I would recommend this, but make sure you have a lot of will power.
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