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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging but good read
Well written and a plot which makes you keep reading to find out what happens - which is what a good read is all about. The device of having alternating chapters from the viewpoint of the various players works well. However the author sometimes has the Iranian Colonel thinking in broken English which grates a bit - given that he probably thought in perfect farsi - which...
Published on 5 Sept. 2002 by Peter Black

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars In the ruts and muck of humanity
A woman in the habit of carelessness loses her house via county auction and a hardworking immigrant gets a bargain. Hey, can't we work something out? Not really. While Andre Dubus III takes his readers into the minds of Massoud Behrani, Kathy Nicolo and her hopeless lover Lester Burdon, he also sticks us in a rut that's knee-deep in self-deception, selfishness,...
Published on 8 Aug. 1999


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging but good read, 5 Sept. 2002
This review is from: House Of Sand And Fog (Paperback)
Well written and a plot which makes you keep reading to find out what happens - which is what a good read is all about. The device of having alternating chapters from the viewpoint of the various players works well. However the author sometimes has the Iranian Colonel thinking in broken English which grates a bit - given that he probably thought in perfect farsi - which should of course be translated into perfect English. But this is a minor point which doesen't take away from the overall enjoyment of the novel. I think one of your reviewers suggested it was "overwritten" in terms of the description of places and people. I agree his descriptions and characterisations are not as light as say JG Ballard - so it can be hard work - but worth the effort. I think a lighter touch wouldn't have worked as we really need that level of detail to get into the heads of the characters and for the narrative to work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful discovery., 17 Sept. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: House of Sand and Fog (Paperback)
Other reviewers have described this book as unpredictable - it certainly is. There are so many twists and turns in this book, without it seeming they have been added for effect. The central characters are well drawn, the story original and profoundly touching and the ending...well, as others have suggested, it will wrench your heart. This book is a wonderful discovery and I can see why they have made it into a film, but cannot imagine how any film could do justice to the depth of the novel. It may sound trite to say it, but this book is worth your time. Wonderful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most unpredictable book I've ever read, 26 July 2004
By 
Raha (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: House of Sand and Fog (Paperback)
I started reading House of Sand and Fog; and wasn't exactly startled from reading the first few pages. BUT by the time I had finished the first chapter I became increasingly intrigued. The situation of characters became clear; Andre Dubus switches narrator from Cathy to Behrani, the two primary conflicting characters of the story. This contrast has an excellent affect upon readers and creates an immense amount of dramatic irony. This gifted writer impressed me early in the book, and astounded me later in the book, and truely affected me with his incredible skills when I had finished the book. He has a distinctive approach to describing, and; I couldn't possibly think how this plot was all aroused from his imagination. If you don't know what is going to happen, like I said, it's the most unpredictable book I've ever come across. Beware though, it is very, very sad!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive and heartbreaking, 4 Sept. 2009
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: House Of Sand And Fog (Paperback)
I picked this up at a jumble sale, remembering the compelling trailer for the film adaption. It's an extremely gripping, well-written book, telling the story of Behrani, an Iranian exile, and Kathy, a former drug addict. Unbeknownst to the rest of the Iranian community (in particular, his new son-in-law's family), Behrani is taking two menial jobs to try and maintain an apparently comfortable standard of living for his family after their enforced flight from their home country. When he discovers a house that has been put up for auction, he acts quickly and uses his remaining funds to buy it, intending to sell it on at a profit as part of his efforts to rebuild the lives of his wife and son. The house belonged to Kathy, who has been wrongfully evicted by the county after being deserted by her husband and having attempted to kick her drug addiction.

The author moves the story forward by switching between the viewpoints of these two characters, and the reader is compelled to watch helplessly as they unwittingly weave themselves a tragedy of unimaginable poignancy. Neither is a bad person, but each is so strongly motivated by what the house represents to them that every development in the plot appears to be inevitable, given the characters involved. Matters aren't helped by the addition of Lester, the deputy sheriff that implements Kathy's eviction, but who is drawn to her emotionally, and tries to help her get the house back. Even he could perhaps be viewed as well-meaning, although his desires are responsible for the trap he eventually springs on himself, Behrani and Kathy.

This is an extraordinary tale, simply told, with big themes of love, regret, hope, ambition, hospitality, loss, belonging, responsibility, hope and pride. It's not a happy book, but being able to view this story as it inexorably unfolds is a deeply rewarding experience that will stay with you for a long time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Characterisation, 31 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: House of Sand and Fog (Hardcover)
House of Sand and Fog," by Andre Dubus III (author of "The Cagekeeper and Other Stories" and "Bluesman"), is a compelling novel. Divided into two parts, "House" is a complex, disturbing, and thought-provoking tragedy.
Dubus's brilliance at characterisation shines through this bleak and believable story. He climbs inside his characters' heads to give readers a chance to feel what it is like to be a recovering addict (Kathy Nicolo); what it is like to be first and second generation immigrants in pursuit of the "American Dream" (the Behrani family); and what it is like to be an ordinary man (Lester Burdon).
"House" is flawed; it is not perfectly written or edited. Those who are familiar with the Northern California setting of this dark tale will note incongruities of detail. But one can forgive these imperfections because of the powerful emotions that Dubus can generate in his readers through his storytelling. "House" is not a tragedy of Greek proportion; there is no chorus of readers which will respond in uniformity to protagonists' or antagonists' moral claims. Rather, "House" reminds one of a kafkaesque travesty: a minor clerical error which compounds itself into misfortune, mayhem, and murderous revenge.
Dubus employs an experimental style of narration, with his deliberate shifting of points of view. This narrative device manipulates the reader's response to the characters, thereby creating in the reader's mind a frustration of not being able to solve the moral dilemma. (Tim O'Brien uses a similar technique in his short novel, "In the Lake of the Woods.")
I especially recommend this book to readers who like to weigh and measure their responses; to writers of fiction who wish to learn about characterisation; and to book discussion groups. Further, I recommend that readers explore the works of this writer's father, the late Andre Dubus, especially "Meditations from a Movable Chair" and "Dancing After Hours."
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A literate, compulsive read, 7 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: House Of Sand And Fog (Paperback)
"House of Sand and Fog" is the story of people whose dreams, though fairly ordinary and mostly achievable, turn out to be built of highly illusive materials, such as sand (upon which you cannot build a house) and fog (through which you cannot see the truth).
Author Dubus tells the story from the perspective of three characters: Kathy Nicolo, who owns and loses a modest, 3-bedroom bungalow in northern California and who is a recovering coke addict and alcoholic; a former colonel from the Shah's Iranian military and now a legal citizen of America who acquires Kathy's house through a county auction; and an intelligent though troubled and dissatisfied American policemen who starts a relationship with Kathy after serving the official eviction notice
This is a book as much about the effects of bureaucratic mistakes and their attendant nightmares, as it is about people and their almost fated inabilities to break free of bad habits and destructive behaviours. At the same time, it's about life in a free country, dreams of betterment, and shaking free of the past.
Big themes. Well handled.
The different perspectives show the American dream and our unalienable rights --- shelter, prosperity, the pursuit of happiness or, failing that, at least a decent enough relationship. The reader is never really certain which character deserves the most empathy; they each have their fatal flaws and also their very real charms.
As the story builds to its tragic conclusion, you will find yourself completely gripped and increasingly worried. This is a page-turner. And it's very, very good. While the book could have done with some good editing towards the end --- maybe ten or 15 fewer pages, especially regarding Les Burdon, the policeman --- it is well worth reading and really memorable.
Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars In the ruts and muck of humanity, 8 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: House of Sand and Fog (Hardcover)
A woman in the habit of carelessness loses her house via county auction and a hardworking immigrant gets a bargain. Hey, can't we work something out? Not really. While Andre Dubus III takes his readers into the minds of Massoud Behrani, Kathy Nicolo and her hopeless lover Lester Burdon, he also sticks us in a rut that's knee-deep in self-deception, selfishness, prejudice. Face your demons, people! (Umph, it doesn't even dawn on them.) If that's the point, a work well done. The story is a downward spiral filled with characters who are always asking, 'why me?' and never looking beyond the muck of sand and fog. Massoud, Kathy and Lester work up a frenzy that gives humanity a black eye. While a few peripheral characters share tiny moments of kindness, their portrayals are left in the dust. The story left me agitated . . . albeit affected by how ugly we can be. -DJO'B
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REMARKABLE!!!, 19 May 2004
By 
Heather Negahdar ""Haze"" (Bridgetown, Barbados) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: House of Sand and Fog (Paperback)
"I rise and carry my tea out the front door and walk barefoot upon the grass. The blades are long, at least 2 centimetres, and as I walk around to the side of the house I make a mental note to purchase a grass cutter as well, something used, nothing extravagant. The sky has lost most of it's light and my new neighbours have turned on the lamps in their houses."
A great page-turner in every sense of the word. You either like the characters or you do not.The story basically centres around three people.
Meet Kathy Nicolo, a recovering alcoholic who does not realize that her home in the California hills is up for sale due to non payment of tax duties, and is evicted in a flash. Kathy
treasures this home, for it bears great sentimetal value being a gift from her father, and she hasn't the slightest idea of what this eviction is really about, as she is forced to scamper out of her home.
Meet former Colonel from Iran, Amir Behrani a former follower of the Shah who now after the revolution has made California his home. Forced to take menial jobs since coming to California, Behrani seizes the opportunity to become self employed when he purchases Kathy's house from the state. Behrani plans are for he and his family to live in it for a short while,and afterwards, selling it off at a profit. This will allow him to give menial work a hike for good, and seek out other real estate
areas, whilst restoring the family's dignity with the life they were accustomed to in the East.
Also playing a roll in this fiasco is Sheriff Lester Burdon, a married man who in a short space of time is totally overwhelmed and infatuated by Kathy Nicolo and takes up her crusade against the former Colonel.
The story takes the shape of an ongoing battle between the two, Behrani and Nicolo with the Sheriff at her side. This battle which gets loud and terrible physical at times as each party plots against each other in the meanest way, stopping at nothing and going to unbelievable destructive lengths to get what they both desire, that house in the California hills.
Heather Marshall May 5th 2004
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A LITERARY TOUR DE FORCE..., 19 Jan. 2003
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: House of Sand and Fog (Hardcover)
This book is simply a masterpiece. It is an exceptionally well written and brilliantly told story of two people whose destinies become intertwined through a simple twist of fate. It is the story of what happens to them and to those who love them, when their respective worlds collide in a climactic and tragic ending.
It is the story of Colonel Behrani, a formerly wealthy Iranian, who had thrived under the regime of the Shah, only to lose everything during his country's revolution. Now, he and his family find themselves undergoing the immigrant experience in America, working to maintain appearances among their fellow exiles, and finding the going hard. Working long hours at menial jobs, Colonel Behrani longs to be a master of the universe again.
It is also the story of Kathy Nicolo, a woman with some serious issues. She is a sad and pathetic bottom feeder, who has lost nearly everything in life, including the one thing that has kept her somewhat anchored: the house she inherited from her father. She is a loser and innocuous bumbler who has totally squandered her life. When she loses that which she holds most dear, her house, and is summarily evicted from it, she meets Sheriff Lester Burden, a married man with children, who is smitten by her. His obsession with her would lead him down a path from which there would be no return.
When Colonel Behrani's quest for the American Dream finds him with an opportunity to buy a house at a bargain basement price at a county auction, he plunks down the remainder of his family's life savings. At the time, he knows nothing of the circumstances of the county's possession of that house, Kathy's house. He and his family move in. Colonel Behrani's head is filled with dreams of selling the house at a large profit, becoming a real estate speculator, and leading his family back to its former glory and place in society. He truly believes that America is the land of opportunity. He still believes in the American Dream.
Kathy, on the other hand, has done nothing with the opportunities afforded her. She has simply squandered them by marrying the wrong men, boozing, and drugging herself into oblivion. Living a marginal existence by cleaning houses and proving herself to be an untrustworthy and totally amoral person with little regard for others, her life is the antithesis of the American Dream. Still, she has this house, and when she loses it due to a bureaucratic error, the bottom totally falls out of her life. For now, she truly has nothing. Like a dog with a bone, she refuses to let the issue go and will stop at nothing to get her house back from the Behranis, whom she views as greedy usurpers. Her view of the situation is supported by Sheriff Lester Burdon, who becomes embroiled in Kathy's struggle and takes it to a level that not even Kathy could have anticipated.

As the author takes the reader to the book's climactic ending, the reader will not be able to put down this beautifully crafted, literary tour de force. The author evokes a distinct mood in his narrative of the Behrani family through a clever use of language and sentence structure that seems to match the syncopation of their first language, giving it a rich, three dimensional flavor. The language of Colonel Behrani has a rich infusion of the cultural milieu out of which he arose. It is a wonderful literary contrivance used to great effect by a very talented and gifted writer.
When the author writes about Kathy, the language and sentence structure of the narrative is simpler, looser, baser, and reflective of the individual around whom the author is trying to create a mood. Again he succeeds, as Kathy is a very primal character, unlike Colonel Behrani, who is more introspective. She is someone who ruins almost everything that she touches without meaning to do so. She is a person totally lacking in self-control. When she meets Sheriff Lester Burden, a tightly wound, conflicted man, very much in control of himself, his passion for her causes him to begin to lose his self-control. He begins a downward spiral that ends in a personal meltdown. The character of Kathy is somewhat pitiable, as she is the catalyst around whom the tragic events unfold. They unfold, however, in a way that she never intended.
This modern day Greek tragedy, with its layers of moral and cultural complexities, is a spellbinding and suspenseful page turner, crafted by an enormously talented author who is able to construct a rich and powerful novel of the first order. It is simply a great book. Bravo!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When a house is more than a home, 21 Mar. 2004
By 
Kona (Emerald City) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: House of Sand and Fog (Paperback)
Andre Dubus III's riveting novel pits two very different people against each other in a battle that is destined to end in tragedy. Kathy, a recovering alcoholic who barely makes it from day to day, finds her modest home taken from her for non-payment of a small tax. The house is sold at auction to Colonel Behrani, a former Iranian Air Force officer who is having a hard time preserving his pride as he works picking up litter on the highways. Kathy's bizarre efforts to reclaim her house and the Colonel's stern refusal to negotiate gradually lead to a surprising and overwhelmingly sad conclusion.
The story is alternately narrated by Kathy and the Colonel, thus bringing us their most intimate thoughts. Kathy sees herself as a helpless loser, at war with the world; the Colonel seeks to regain his former power and honor as he strives to understand the strange people in his new country, and the reader must choose who is most deserving of the house. Dubus uses all of the senses to intimately describe their thoughts and it is so absorbing, I could not put it down. If you like character-driven, intensely dramatic stories about ordinary people in conflict, you will enjoy House of Sand and Fog.
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House Of Sand And Fog
House Of Sand And Fog by Andre Dubus III (Paperback - 3 May 2001)
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