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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 Torialouise


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 24 Jan 2010
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
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars trauma, 26 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Hour I First Believed (Paperback)
For living in Colorado and employed at Columbine High School nurse Maureen Quirk the terrible experience of the rampage took place there and bloody massacre of two students in April 1999 remains in their souls and adhere means a trauma unimaginable scale.

She is drawn and there are also active forty-seven teachers and husband Caelum Quirk is in a maelstrom of events, the umkrempelt her life and mean for Maureen the deprivation of liberty.

It closes a circle once with the great-great-grandmother of Caelum took the beginning and it needs to be broken now. The problem Velvet student of Columbine High School, whose tutor was Caelum for a time, is the key of all events.

An exciting book, where the reader is immersed in the changeable and complicated life of Caelum and his wife Maureen and just like the book of the writer "the music of the whales" convinced. The author Wally Lamb has described very insightful and realistic the brutal events at this school and thus plunging into chaos his life contained in the book protagonists.

Wally Lamb has taken at the beginning of the book look back at the childhood Caelums, describes his failed marriages, his outburst and therapies, his latest attempt to save the marriage with his third wife Maureen and brings skillfully as voltage anticipate every now and again as a suggestion that the killing spree in the conversation. Until the actual, terrible event that will turn her life upside down.

Wally Lamb was born in 1950. He was for a long time as an English teacher at a high school on the east coast of the USA and worked there for several years in a women's prison courses in Creative Writing. Wally Lamb is a very active one for adhesion improvement of the prisoners.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars, 15 Jun 2009
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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I have postponed reading this book, deterred by the sheer size of the tome.
I enjoyed She's Come Undone by the same author so I decided it was high time to give The Hour I First Believed a chance.
It certainly is quite epic in scope, starting with the Colombine Schoool Massacre and moving on to encompass The Iraq War, slavery, the American Civil War and Hurricane Catrina. No wonder it took 9 years to write.

The central characters, Caelum and Maureen Quirk have moved from Three Rivers after Maureen gets involved with another man. The last thing they need in their quest to repair their marriage is the carnage that takes place on April 20th 1999. While Caelum is away visiting a sick aunt, Maureen is in the thick of the atrocities. The lasting effect on her is devestating, resulting in a depression that she can only deal with through drugs.
And that was only the first half of the book!

The second half could almost have been a separate book - a sequel to the story of Caelum and his wife. Caelum becomes fascinated in the history of his family as revealed from items found in his aunt's attic. A story unravels that covers huge swathes of American history but from the personal point of view of Caelum's family.

I'll admit, I did get a bit bogged down with this book and I would have preferred it to have been two books. My knowlege of American history is scant and perhaps that's why it just didn't hold my interest after the massacre and has taken several weeks to troll though.
I would have given it 3 1/2 stars if that were possible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proof that size doesn't matter...., 18 May 2009
By 
Sam Holliday "saminblack" (Bath) - See all my reviews
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Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When you are faced with an enormous book you have to ask yourself before you start - am I prepared to invest a goodly amount of my time into this?

I had to do the same recently with Jonathan Littell's extraordinary 900 page memoire of a former SS officer (The Kindly Ones) and I am so glad I did. And I suspect many people will feel the same about this meaty and multi-faceted novel which has already proven to be a real `talkabout' book in America.

For starters it is hard to summarise what this book is - and the cover doesn't exactly help. It starts like a very contemporary novel about a genuinely interesting couple who get caught up in a modern day tragedy (a killing spree at a school) and find their whole lives start to be reshaped at that point.

They attempt to flee their memories and you think you have a handle on where the book is going as people try to discover a simpler way of life away from the murder and mayhem.

But you would be wrong as in many ways the tragedy they get involved in at the start is just a foretaste of many more shocking events that sees the couple's relationship stretched to breaking point with imprisonment, drug addiction, mental health problems and many other issues hitting them. At times it makes for somewhat uncomfortable reading but wait...this is no `misery lit' either.

The book takes plot turns aplenty and even drifts into the past in a way that initially comes as something of a surprise.

In short the book is as unpredictable as is the life of its two main characters - and that is what will keep you reading its hundreds of pages.

I enjoyed this book on many levels but above all I found it to be supremely entertaining. It is an easy book to read but one not lacking in depth and in amongst the tears, the cheers and the shocks there is also a fair bit of humour hat will ensure you smile with the characters as well as try to empathise with their awful situations.

A big book. In every sense of the phrase.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the wait, 31 Mar 2009
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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This is a real breezeblock of a book which took the author nine years to write and covers such a broad range of subjects as the American Civil War, slavery, women's emancipation, school shootings, Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. It's a very ambitious novel which mixes fact and fiction, and I found it both chilling and fascinating.

The sections covering the Columbine shootings are quite detailed and difficult to read. I was unsure at first about using the names of the real killers and their victims in this fictional account, but in his copious notes at the back of the book Lamb (himself a high-school teacher for 25 years) explains that he did this in order to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of Columbine and acknowledge their suffering. For what it's worth, I think he handles it sensitively and doesn't glorify the shootings in any way, or attempt to make excuses.

Caelum's narrative about the shootings and his and Maureen's attempts to overcome their survivors' guilt, is interspersed with extracts from the journal of his formidable great-great-grandmother Lizzy Popper who, during her time as a Civil War nurse, abolitionist and campaigner for the rights of women in in prison, rubbed shoulders with the likes of Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott, and built a women's prison which comes to play a significant role in Caelum and Maureen's life. I really enjoyed reading about Caelum's family history, as he (literally) digs up skeletons from his past and faces some uncomfortable truths about his parents.

This is my third Wally Lamb book and I've really enjoyed them all - just hope I don't have to wait nine years for the next one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going, 24 Oct 2008
By 
Wilz "wilson9hb" (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
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This book is well written and as I have read the draft version, I would imagine that when it has been "trimmed" and reduced somewhat, it will be much improved. The Author has put a lot of effort into getting this right, successfully in my view and it certainly is compelling, if heavy going.
If you want a quick weekend read, don't bother - this is not for you. If you want a light tale of romance and a happy ending, find something else. This book has depth and will make you think. I was put off with the very American content and my increasing frustration with the shallowness of the main character. I was not entirely happy with the central core of the story line either, revolving, as it does, around the Columbine shootings. But that is all subjective and to many people this will be, I am sure, a brilliant read.
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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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