Customer Reviews


60 Reviews
5 star:
 (35)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (7)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:
 (6)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Days of His Life
Novels are often autobiographical, and memoirs usually have as much fiction as fact. So what is Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle? It's clearly his personal story, told in a hyper-realistic manner. When I saw him in conversation with James Wood in September 2012 at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, he said yes, of course this is a novel, not a memoir: he...
Published 20 months ago by Taylor McNeil

versus
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but not likeable
I can not decide whether or not I like this book. I found it self-indulgent, and I at times felt that the author was incredibly arrogant. The book appears to have been written as self-therapy, to cleanse the author of his feelings about his father. We never really find out why the author hated his father so much, nor do we discover much about what seems to have been a...
Published 18 months ago by Lenni E


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Days of His Life, 27 April 2013
By 
Taylor McNeil (Arlington, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Death in the Family: My Struggle Book 1 (Knausgaard) (Paperback)
Novels are often autobiographical, and memoirs usually have as much fiction as fact. So what is Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle? It's clearly his personal story, told in a hyper-realistic manner. When I saw him in conversation with James Wood in September 2012 at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, he said yes, of course this is a novel, not a memoir: he uses the techniques of a novelist. But it's something simpler than that: it's an extremely effective piece of storytelling, the elemental kind that is how we make sense of our lives.

Why should readers care about the story of Karl Ove's life? It's not that it's in any way remarkable, though it certainly has its personal dramas. No, it's the almost guileless realism that drew me in--all the small details that make up our everyday lives that rarely get acknowledged in books, but which completely resonates at some deep inner level. And while there are passages where the writing is plain--no other word for it--often Knausgaard is employing the careful wordcraft of a skilled writer more concerned with telling his story than showing off his chops. In doing so, he gets to the heart of being in all its everyday ordinariness.

Knausgaard spares no one in his family in this portrayal, least of all himself. We see family scenes from his childhood, a long section from his teenage years that's blissfully free of moralizing or wallowing in self pity: it's simply life itself.

But ultimately the book is about death, and what that means for the living. My Struggle opens with a meditation on life's end, and the heart of the book recounts Karl Ove's week after learning of his father's death, most of it spent at his grandmother's fetid home in Kristiansand, a town on the southern coast of Norway. It was here that his father spent the last years of his life, slowly drinking himself to death. Karl Ove and his brother Yngve slowly clean out the stinking house, tossing reeking clothes and furniture, scrubbing for hours on end, and trying to understand their grandmother, who found their dead father, her dead son.

It doesn't sound like promising material, and should by rights be downright depressing, but it's not. Every detail is described with care; the story is more like a painting of an old Dutch master, rich in intricate and mundane detail, sparing nothing, engrossing us, leaving us wanting more.

Why does this book work so well? Why did I look forward to reading another 20 pages every evening? I think somehow Knausgaard has managed to make his struggle universal through all the small details that accumulate into the larger whole. That includes his own follies and failures, his self doubt and fears, and yet also a confidence that he will make it through to the next day, the ultimate struggle for all of us.

Each little moment he describes is a moment of awareness of the present. Perhaps that's why it captivated me: all too often, we go through our days unaware of the moments that make up our lives, lost in thought, focused on the future or the past. Knausgaard describes a relentless present, something that we mostly forget in our own daily struggles.

This definitely isn't a book for everyone; if you want plot development and action, look elsewhere. But for me it was rich, rewarding, thought-provoking, and ultimately moving.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but not likeable, 3 Jun 2013
I can not decide whether or not I like this book. I found it self-indulgent, and I at times felt that the author was incredibly arrogant. The book appears to have been written as self-therapy, to cleanse the author of his feelings about his father. We never really find out why the author hated his father so much, nor do we discover much about what seems to have been a very good relationship with his mother. The style of the book is sometimes very difficult to read: there are whole pages without a single paragraph break, and there is little flow of narrative. You could start reading this book at any point and not lose the flow.
This book definitely is not as good as the praise at the front of the book suggests. But at the same time, I did want to read it. Although not likeable, the author's character is intriguing; his observations of human nature are fascinating, his descriptions of the things he sees brings them alive. And yet he appears to have no ability to interpret his own behaviour. It has bee suggested that the author may be somewhere on the autism spectrum; he is highly intelligent, but seems unable to truly relate to others.
I can't say I enjoyed the book. I can't say I would recommend it to others to read. But I am glad I took the time to read it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "masterpiece" is not an exaggeration, 5 Jan 2013
By 
Masscharis Peter "Peter arctophile" (Boechout, near Antwerp, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I would rarely use the word "masterpiece" to descrive a contemporary novel, let alone an autobiography, but this book deserves this title.

You have to admit he has guts: writing a six - part autobiography and calling it "My struggle" (in German translated as "Mein Kampf") is a daring enterprise. But Knausgard succeeds with brio: he is a brilliant story teller and explores the human condition with such honesty and candour that it just leaves you gasping for breath (and wanting to read more and more).

The scenes at the end of the book (his father, his grandmother, the house, the bottles, ....) still haunt my mind.

Apparently Knausgard has achieved a kind of rock star status in Scandinavia: as far as I am concerned he deserves it.

The second book of the series "A man in love" has already appeared in the Dutch translation and is a little bit disappointing after the sheer brilliance of the first, but that is only to be expected. This book is to be released in April in English. By that time I will have read part three of "My Struggle" and it is already marked on my calendar that I have to get the moment it comes out.

Seriously, this is a reading experience not to be missed!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proust as family suburban man, literature in the making, 26 Feb 2014
By 
terence dooley (camelford, cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This sequence of books, My Struggle, is enormously ambitious and pretty successful it seems to me, only just embarked on the 2nd, A Man in Love. If you aren't hooked soon by A Death in the Family, by the implacable truthtelling, by the poetic flashes, by the echoes of your own life in a current, new, masterpiece, then maybe you like easier reading.
This volume combines bildung, youth and the making of a writer, love and the death of a parent. Its connection with the real, with autofiction, makes it unusually dangerous, more untrustworthy than ordinary fiction, but far less untrustworthy than memoir. There is nothing reassuring about this book, but it is fascinating. I particularly love his epiphanic moments, and his voice. Even better, a large percentage of translations are poor, this one by Don Bartlett is very good.
This is literature in the making.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, tragic and very controversial, 18 April 2012
By 
I Readalot (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
`A Death in the Family' (My Struggle: Vol 1) takes the autobiographical novel to the extreme. Knausgaard has written the truth, this is his reality. The frankness of his 6 Volume work has alienated him from half his family and he admits that the scandal accompanying its publication has contributed to its bestselling status in Norway where it has become a national obsession.

The central figure is his father, an ordinary school teacher who became an alcoholic and drank himself to death. There is no plot or formal structure and Knausgaard moves around freely in time as a particular event reminds him of something that happened in the past. It is about his struggle to write great literature while having to contend with the banality of everyday life including looking after his children, he loves them but is brutally honest about the fact he also resents the time they take up in his life. At times it can be almost uncomfortable learning about one man's life in such detail, but it is fascinating. Although it is a personal narrative about the struggles of a writers life it also explores the struggles universal to us all.

There are no chapters and frequently a single paragraph can take up several pages which may sound daunting but the compelling narrative kept me going. Memories and events in his life are described in minute detail, for example, the time that he and his brother clean their grandmother's house after their father died there; having wrecked the place. In spite of the detail of the mundane `A Death in the Family' is not boring, although Part 1 is the hardest to get through but it really takes off in Part 2 leaving me wanting to read the second volume.

It has frequently been compared to Marcel Proust, has been hailed as a literary masterpiece all over Europe and it will be interesting to see how it is received in the UK. `A Death in the Family' is amusing, tragic and very controversial; a very literary book but compelling and highly readable; thanks in no small part to Don Bartlett's translation, Scandi crime fans will recognise the name as he translates Jo Nesbo. The question is has Knausgaard sold his soul for fame?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The days from which these incidents are drawn were countless, the bonds they created between us indestructible", 23 Aug 2014
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
An amazing read, but one that's hard to review. It's somewhere between a memoir and a work of literature: opening with the author recollecting his early childhood, with a father he fears (although we never really discover what causes such strong feelings); moving to the present day, where he describes marriage and children - love but boredom at much that this life entails . He describes his teenage years brilliantly: the huge effort of smuggling booze to a new year's party without his parents finding out; obsessive first love. And then midway through the book his father, who he hadn't seen for 18 months, dies an alcoholic, and as he spends time clearing up the house, he begins to realise how much he meant to him.
Much of everyday life is described in excessive detail, yet somehow it doesn't bore - rather it makes you feel like you're there, watching all that happens. And in between, there are interesting, moving, highly relevant thoughts on life, art, nature, relationships.
Looking forward to reading the sequels!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and very, 5 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Talk about a lstruggle I struggled with this book.Every detail of every cigarette lit, meal eaten etc.Tedious and very long
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a powerful book, 28 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Death in the Family: My Struggle Book 1 (Knausgaard) (Paperback)
His reflections on death are provoking and unsettling and expressed with brute force. The book is hard to put down.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Death in the Family, 29 July 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book, the first in a series of six autobiographical works, is written by a controversial Norwegian author. His first novel, "A Time for Everything" was the first debut to win the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature. His 'My Struggle' series has caused discussion and controversary, not only for the 'Min Kamp (Mein Kampf)' title, but because it exposes the private lives of his friends and family. However, the author, who now lives in Sweden has created a publishing sensation, which now has the first two volumes translated into English.

It is hard to pinpoint what is so compelling about this book. Karl Ove Knausgaard begins with his childhood. Much of this first volume concentrates on his relationship with his father. We read of his schooldays, early drunken adventures, his parents divorce and his family. Born in 1968, Karl Ove also discusses his life now (or, at least, at the time of writing this book), as a thirty nine year old man, in his second marriage and with three children. He muses on writing, life and death. If much of this book is mundane, or uncomfortable, to read about - it is also strangely fascinating. Although I can understand why members of his family objected, it is fair to say that he does not spare his own failings when relating his life. It is certainly interesting to read the first volume of a series which has been such a huge success and created such discussion in the authors home country. If you are looking for something different, this is certainly it and you may find that you are unable to stop reading on...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 21st century masterpiece ..., 25 Aug 2014
By 
P. Millar "dazzle" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Death in the Family: My Struggle Book 1 (Knausgaard) (Paperback)
It wasn't until I looked up the name 'Karl Ove Knausgaard' that I realised I had already read one of his books, 'A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven', which didn't impress me and I barely made it halfway through. After finding that out I approached this book with caution - which turned out to be unfounded.

The first book in the fictionalised memoir series 'My Struggle' ('Min Kamp' in Norwegian or 'Mein Kampf' in German) mainly deals with the death of Karl Ove's father. Along the way he digresses on death, life, growing up and the act of writing. He moves backwards and forwards through different times seamlessly and he uses no stylistic quirks - this is a story told in a straightforward 'flat' style and no chapters. All of this adds up to what has to be on of the best contemporary novels I have read in a long time and to call it a page-turner would not be a critiscism.

Quite simply this is a contemporary version of Proust - something I didn't think a modern writer would attempt again - and I am equally looking forward to the next chapter in Karl Ove's 'struggle'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

A Death in the Family: My Struggle Book 1 (Knausgaard)
A Death in the Family: My Struggle Book 1 (Knausgaard) by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Paperback - 7 Mar 2013)
£6.29
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews