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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the finest novel I have ever read.
I approached "The Hour I First Believed" with a great deal of anticipation, having read and really enjoyed Wally Lamb's two previous novels within a couple of months of each other - albeit almost a decade ago. To say that this book does not disappoint would be a massive understatement. The strengths that he displayed in his previous books are again evident here, notably...
Published on 24 Oct 2009 by Gypsy Davey

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I've waited so long for a wally lamb book so started this with eager anticipation. I liked the character of Caelum- he made a strong centre around which the story builds.

I really liked the beginning third of the book, which places Caelum and his wife right in the centre of the Columbine High School shootings. This was brilliantly written, never...
Published on 24 Jan 2010 by Victoria Megginson


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 24 Jan 2010
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This review is from: The Hour I First Believed (Paperback)
I've waited so long for a wally lamb book so started this with eager anticipation. I liked the character of Caelum- he made a strong centre around which the story builds.

I really liked the beginning third of the book, which places Caelum and his wife right in the centre of the Columbine High School shootings. This was brilliantly written, never sensationalising, but giving a perceptive insight in to what much have been a harrowing and horrifying time for not only those directly involved, but those indirectly involved.

I have to say, i really struggled with the flash backs to Caelums Great Grandmother. i got confused with the characters as so many were introduced, and i didn't connect with them. As such i felt this part of the book really hard going and a little disappointing.

The book picks up in the final third, with a strong story and finish.

This was my least favourite of the Wally Lamb novels, the other 2 were just outstanding, i just hope the next one can get back to top form.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the finest novel I have ever read., 24 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Hour I First Believed (Paperback)
I approached "The Hour I First Believed" with a great deal of anticipation, having read and really enjoyed Wally Lamb's two previous novels within a couple of months of each other - albeit almost a decade ago. To say that this book does not disappoint would be a massive understatement. The strengths that he displayed in his previous books are again evident here, notably the depth of his characterisation. Caelum Quirk is deeply flawed, but it is the flaws and the frailties of his character that make him such a fascinating person, indeed his journey of redemption and self discovery are all the more plausible because of them. The same is true of his wife Maureen and the peripheral characters (I hesitate to use the word minor in this context).

As in his first book "She's Come Undone," Lamb uses real events as the focal points of his narrative. There it was Woodstock and the moon landings, here it is the Columbine shootings and to a lesser extent Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. Some people have taken issue with this, calling it a cop-out and saying that it renders the book shallow and dishonest. I disagree, I think it gives the book a legitimacy and makes it more truthful. This is also true of the social issues that Lamb takes on board - alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, drug dependency, infidelity, and in the second half of the story, slavery, lesbianism and female emancipation. Some of this does not make for comfortable reading, but as with the failings of his characters, Lamb tackles them with an openness and an honesty that draws you into his world.

"The Hour I First Believed" is a big book, but one that is worth taking time with. I know that some people have struggled with it, this is a shame, because reading it is a richly rewarding experience. Caelum's story will stay with me for a long time, as one of the psychiatrists said to him, "...sometimes when you go looking for what you want you run right into what you need." Taken out of context this probably sounds like a trite cliche, but within the framework of the narrative it is so, so true. I for one, hope that Wally Lamb does not have another case of writer's block like the one that delayed the writing and publication of this work, I would hate to wait nine years for his next offering - I urge you to read "The Hour I First Believed," it is a true modern masterpiece.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wanna shot at redemption, 22 Jun 2009
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This lengthy and profound novel by Wally Lamb covers major US events of the past two decades including The Columbine High School shootings, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, as well as chewing over weighty social issues such as marriage, drug addiction, prison reform, the connection between ancestry and identity and so on.

Our narrator is Caelum Quirk, a high school English teacher living in Littleton, Colorado, who has anger management issues that he's struggling to contain, whilst his third marriage hits the skids as well. A series of coincidences lead to Caelum discovering that there has been a massacre at the school where he works, Columbine, and his semi-estranged wife Maureen who also works there, as a nurse, has managed to survive by hiding in the library. Due to her guilt over surviving the ordeal, Maureen becomes addicted to prescription drugs and the pair of them start to go downhill even more rapidly.

Ultimately an optimistic and uplifting novel about redemption, albeit a secular kind, Lamb's easy narrative style and awkward but likeable characters is aimed at enriching and improving the reader's life, summed-up at the end of this fascinating book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful novel for our times, 25 May 2009
By 
hbw (uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Hour I First Believed (Paperback)
Stuff happens. A butterfly flaps its wings in China and two disaffected teenagers go on a killing spree at Columbine High School. If Caelum Quirk's aunt in Connecticut hadn't had a stroke a few days earlier, he would be teaching his literature class at Columbine. If Maureen Quirk had been able to get an earlier flight, she wouldn't have been hiding in a cupboard in the school library.

Those few hours in the library placed Maureen and Caelum at the centre of a labyrinth that they will spend the rest of their lives trying escape. As they search for the threads that will lead them to the exit, medication and therapy fail. Gradually Caelum turns to stories as a way of understanding the couple's personal nightmare and the chaos that is starting to engulf their country. Drawing on everything from Greek and Hindu mythology to the unfolding history of Caelum's family and the personal stories of other "lost" people, Caelum and Maureen embark on an epic journey out of chaos.

"The Hour I First Believed" is about the cumulative effect of apparently arbitrary events on the lives of individuals, families and communities. More importantly, and more powerfully, it's about the enduring power of stories to help us make sense of the incomprehensable.

I've given this four stars rather five because the prose occasionally rambles and I did get slightly lost at times in the Quirk family tree, but this is still well worth reading. I finished this book two weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong but lengthy, 27 May 2009
By 
AJ Ward (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hour I First Believed (Paperback)
This is a lovely book that - if you've got some time to spare - is well worth reading. The story of Caelum Quirk and his extraordinary family is an eye opener, and there are some really delicate moments that have stayed with me long since. Contemporary issues (gun violence, the criminal justice system, spirituality) are dealt with with tact and prowess and a real empathy is allowed to develop between the reader and the central character.

However, I've only given it three stars. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, the book is very long, perhaps uneccessarily so. From page one it goes into great detail on so many things, some of them trivial. This is stylistic, and fine until the last few pages, where numerous momentous events are summarised. It's as if what Lamb could have made into an 200 extra pages of story is paraphrased into about 5 - I'm not saying there should be 200 extra pages, but it feels as though there is a lack of consistency in the weight of detail placed on certain events. The ending lacks something for me. Perhaps I'm a slow reader, but I felt like I'd invested a lot of time into reading the book for it to kind of fizzle out. It's a theme led, rather than plot led, story.

Secondly, there were some annoying punctuation issues that I found distracting. Lamb has a habit of using question marks at the end of sentences that are not questions. A lot of this, if not all of it, happens in speech and I understand that he is trying to get across a particular way of talking. However, I found it tripped me up as I read - it's a bit like someone speaking with an upward inflection on the end of every sentence. Also, there is an overuse of italics which dictate the places where the reader should place emphasis. I found this a bit controlling, even patronising.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply stunning, 1 April 2009
I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Wally Lamb's previous two novels, so when this was published after such a long wait, the anticipation was almost too much to bear!
This book is absolutely brilliant, the skilful way in which the story incorporates fact and fiction is breathtaking.
I think Wally Lamb is a wonderful writer and this book is the best book Ive ever read, and that's saying something!
Please dont make us wait so long for the next novel!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overly Long..., 21 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Hour I First Believed (Paperback)
I struggled on to the bitter end with this... Thought we might be on the home straight once the shooting was out of the way (and agree that this section was well written). Instead it marked the point at which I ceased to have any idea what I was meant to take from it all. Glimmers of the Wally Lamb who wrote "I Know This Much is True" - one of my all-time favourite novels - but where was the editor? Lamb's notes indicate that he spent a very, very long time writing this - it shows. I can't help feeling that it would have benefitted from losing a few hundred pages. So disappointed!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Phew!, 19 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Hour I First Believed (Paperback)
Not a light or easy read, this. But go for it. It's well worth it.
I particularly love the honesty and vulnerability of the central character, Caelum Quirk. He can be funny, sweet, sincere, annoying and chauvenistic by turns. He's just some ordinary guy.
The first section that deals with the Columbine shootings is so different in not only content but style to the middle section, dealing with Caelum's family, that it could have been written by someone else. However, eventually the styles meld together as the story resolves itself and we see how Caelum came to be the person he is. It's a sad story but also one full of hope. It covers a multitude of difficult subjects in a humane and respectful way.
This is the first book I've read by this author but it won't be the last.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Miserable, 14 Jan 2012
There are a few reviews that already say what I want to say, so I'll be brief. After loving I Know This Much is True and She's Come Undone, I was very pleased about buying this book. However, to be blunt, I found it long-winded and excruciatingly miserable. I'm all for sadness, emotions and bitter-sweet endings in books, but this was just unnecessarily depressing. Even sad books usually give some sense of satisfaction or some kind of connection and heart-felt emotion to the reader, but this did none of those things. I persevered to the end, but was pleased to finish it and move on to something better. And look at that, I wasn't as brief as I intended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, 1 April 2010
This review is from: The Hour I First Believed (Paperback)
This author is second to none ,three fine novels so far ,I have them all.I just wish he were more prolific
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The Hour I First Believed
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (Paperback - 2 April 2009)
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