11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2003
I've never read Douglas Copeland before and I found that this was an amazing book. It has the kind of prose that you just eat up. Copeland seemingly writes so easily and descriptively that after I'd finished I couldn't believe he'd created such a complete and satisfying book in so few pages.
The fact that Karen is in a coma for 17 years and that you have followed the life of her friends through that time and only a 3rd of the book is finished is incredible. The 2nd third is packed with moving descriptions of every day life, love and self-discovery, only to then have a bolt out of the blue for the last third that is a post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world truly surreal yet strangely gripping scenario. The ending does jolt a little, but if you go with it, I believe that Copeland achieves his aim of making you question modern day life, its' trapping and its' ultimate emptiness.
I was very very impressed. The book is really deep (man), and examines the meaningless of life and adulthood and the loss of dreams, yet it isn't a chore to plough through, it's a pleasure.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2006
OK, I admit it, I started reading this purely because I'd heard it had loads of Smiths lyrics embedded in the narrative. But I soon forgot trying to spot them as I got completely caught up in the story itself. As a whole, it's a great book, but I did enjoy the first part the most, particularly when the characters all go slightly off the rails as they get older(the description of Richard vomiting into his stero had me in stitches), and start wondering if there isn't some greater meaning to life. Coupland writes these scenes fantastically well - they are questions we've all probably asked ourselves, and maybe had drunken conversations about - but he makes the characters do it in a way that's somehow both touchingly innocent but profound at the same time.
It's also done in a way that tantalisingly hints at answers being given later in the book, and ones that are tied up with Karen, the eponymous girlfriend, and the visions she had before her coma. And indeed they are, but somehow the answers given by Coupland fails to match the intrigue of the question. For me, this led to the second and third parts being inferior. Karen waking from the coma is very moving, and her first reactions to meeting everyone again are interesting, but the apocalyptic section moves the book more to the realm of sci fi thriller. The final part I mainly found irritating, mainly because I didn't really like the character of Jared the ghost, but it somehow all came together quite well in the final scene at the dam, and the ultimate message - which seemed to be 'start looking out for the rest of the world, not just yourself' - a thought-provoking one.
The various cultural references are also interesting - the lyrics, Smiths or otherwise, the unnamed TV show which is obviously the X Files. Unwittingly, Coupland also appears to have invented Lost in this book, with his description of a tv show about survivors of a plane crash who are never found... I'd also be interested to know if whoever wrote the screenplay to the film Goodbye Lenin had read GIAC, as the basic concept is exactly the same... especially seeing as Karen is told ad nauseam about the Berlin Wall coming down while she was asleep.
So overall, an excellent read, and I will definitely try some of his other books as a result.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2000
I would have given this book more stars but whilst I enjoyed almost every page of Coupland's wit, humour, and depth, the end of the book was an incredible let-down. It just got ridiculous. I won't actually tell you the ending incase you want to give the book a shot, but I was really disappointed after the rest of the book had been so enjoyable. 'Generation X' on the other hand, is a work of genius, and I strongly recommend it to those of you just starting to experience the world of Douglas Coupland.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2012
The novel opens with the reader being addressed by a dead school jock who collapsed on the field of play and was diagnosed with fatal leukemia. The mix of quirky and misery pervades throughout the book, as the jock hands over narrative duties to the boyfriend of a girl who falls into a 17 year long coma after they finally seal their relationship with a consummative act of sex.
The group of high school graduates enter the big wide world, all the while their friend and lover lies in a persistent vegetative state. Their highs and lows are plotted against her unchanging state. But in truth they seem to be going nowhere, even when they are making progress in their careers. Something seems to be missing.
And it's here where Coupland's novel is a real tease. He hints at why their lives are unfulfilled. All sorts of strange groupings of fate centre around this group that seems to make them immune for the rest of the world's manipulations. And this protected status is actualised in parts 2 and 3 of the book, though I won't spoil in what way. However, the metaphysical debate that Coupland offers behind their feelings and their status turns out to be empty-handed as all the questions about life and its purpose are thrown back on the reader. So the tease that Coupland might be building up to and preparing us for some mighty answers to gigantic questions, is shown to be an utterly empty reveal. Ultimately, the characters shrink in stature to bratty, wastrel, self-indulgent post-teens who never really grew up and my sympathy for one largely evaporated. It is probably a deliberate contrast of the infinity of possibility felt by teens on the cusp of adulthood when graduating and about to launch into the world and that submergence of such possibility within the need to work and pay the mortgage. But this slips into insignificance when held up against the grander metaphysical questions Coupland seems to be offering throughout.
Having said that, Coupland is too good an author not to also move & involve me at points. The scene when the 10 year old daughter conceived the night of her mother slipping into a coma, gets to see her mother for the first time some ten years later is heart-rending. Equally some of the detail of the wasted body when Karen does finally emerge from her coma are beautifully drawn. However the language is curiously flat in places, the metaphors being drawn in the mundane of the domestic; while this may suit the novel's theme of the struggle between the ennobling of the spirit and its crushing in the everyday, it means the words don't really soar off the page " I want to squish my friends into my heart, as though they could grout a troublesome crack". So for me, these are not enough to save what is a curate's egg of a book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2007
This is not my usual type of book, but it caught my eye on one of those "books you must read" lists and I decided to give it a go. I wasn't sure I liked it at first but found it became more compelling the further I read. Unlike some of the other reviews, I enjoyed the ending and I found Richard and Karen's relationship very moving. Overall, a good thought provoking read with a difference - I look forward to reading more of his work.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 1999
This book. Well, this book moved me in the end. And the middle. Now, perhaps this is because I'm 16, naive, and impressionable, much like the characters as they are at the beginning...and the way Karen, one of the most central characters, essentially remains throughout. I am happy to admit this: I have never read any of Coupland's other work, but on the strength of this work alone, he appears an excellent writer. The book uses highly graphical and richly evocative imagery to describe the visions of Karen, as well as in other instances, such as the 'stereo' heroin-overdose-induced premonitions of her two married friends, Pamela and Hamilton. I'm not quite sure of the complete message of this book - I have to read it again. But trust me, you will forget yourself for a while.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2000
This has to be Coupland's best work. The book is extremely depressing throughout.The loss of the best years of a young girls life. However when she wakes up the true story in the novel starts. She is amazed to discover just what the world has becomed. Coupland makes the closet possible to an Ailen's view of modern life on earth. The novel tries to show that we are wasting our lives. That we are chasing things that don't matter while the things that do slip away. Read this book. Enjoy it. Then change your life.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2006
Douglas Coupland is a Canadian Author whose early 90's novel Generation X accidently defined a generation struggling to grow into adulthood. This late 90's novel may well be his best work to date (though personally it is a close call between this and his 2003 novel Hey Nostradamus).
Coupland takes a group of characters surrounded by pop culture references and global branding and sees them from their teens through to their thirties before forcing them to confront issues that they were always to busy to think about; love, death, family, enviromental destruction, the future and what exactly are we here for anyway? Most western readers born since the wars will recognise the world the characters live in and are equally to busy to confront these important issues. To this end the book often feels like a refreshing and some times desturbing critique of the readers own life expirence. Some reviewrs here suggest that this is ham fisted. But although the writing style is stark in places I found the story all the more shocking and immersive because of it.
The books takes it's name from a song title by seminal 80's guitar popsters The Smiths and their lyrics are liberally scattered through out the chapters. Spotting these is a real treat for any Morrissey or Smiths fan but never dominates the story and characters. Music journalists have often put the Smiths cross generational legacy down to their popularity with young people struggling with the transition into adulthood. The books appeal is very similair and it feels like an essential read for any one in their late teens to mid twenties.
Girlfirned in a Coma is an accssible, engrossing and easy read, the characters are great and the story is an excellent snap shot of the culture of it's time. But at the same time it deals with the most heavy weight issue since the enlightenment;
now that the West has got rid of God, how do we find lasting satisfaction?
And how do we approach the sticky subject of our inevitable deaths?
The book offers no answers. It feels as if it intends the reader, like the central characters, to go away and think seriously for themsevles. For this reason I believe it is a masterpiece.
Why are you here?
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2004
For a long time I wondered whether Coupland, christened as the voice of “Generation X”, had in fact anything significant to say (and I also wondered whether that apparent lack of significance was an ironic truth in itself). But “Girlfriend” is a dam-burst of previous promise and more than worth the long wait. The plot is a bravely inventive imagining of that tired end-of-the-world scenario but it is executed with such accomplishment that the end, when it comes, leaves you feeling as cold and alien as must the surviving protagonists. His characters are so beautifully drawn that the reader feels a genuine concern for what happens to them in the strange dying world in which they find themselves. Indeed it is probably because Coupland manages so successfully to draw you into the fantastical plot that he is able to thread through it a metaplot of much grander ideas: death and rebirth, choice and causality, reality and the transcendental. He writes about these things with humour, honesty and a powerful economy of language so that there are spaces left between the dots for the reader to join themselves. Consequently this is a story not just to read and reread but to recommend and then enjoy discussing in the reflective small hours of the night. Rarely would I use the phrase “page-turner” in describing a work of literary fiction but this book is inarguably that.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2002
This book is definitely not something that everyone will enjoy, mainly because the storyline is nothing like the stuff you will be used to. Some might find the big difference between the dramatic and believable first half and the deep, dark and surreal second half too disturbing. Some might not agree with Coupland's view of the world, past preset and future. Someone might even identify with the character's emptyness, their search for a reason in life and paranoia for the present,the uncertaincy of the future and the changing of times.
But surely, if you are looking fo rsomething to take with you and to make yourself ask some questions about existance you will find it here. Not somehting you will forget very quickly.