on 7 July 2006
Anyone thinking of buying this on the strength of "Vernon God Little" should be prepared to be disappointed. The book does display some of the author's undeniable talents: originality of thought, punchy writing style (especially in dialogue) and some elements of fabulous characterisation. The problem is the book just doesn't "hang together" as a whole.
The story telling flits between two main plotlines: one (and by far the more developed, despite the book's title) concerns separated siamese twins Blair and Bunny in the UK; the other concerns Ludmilla and her family in a former Soviet backwater. One of the big problems with the book is that it is not clear what, if anything, is the relationship between these two plotlines until perilously late on in the book. By the time they do have a meeting of sorts it all seems terribly contrived and rushed and, I'm afraid, entirely unconvincing. The overall impression is of a "first draft" which the author has not quite had time to tidy up.
All of which is a great shame, because, as mentioned above, the book does have its moments. In particular DBC does not disappoint in providing moments of laugh-out-loud humour and his caustic allegories in particular on New Labour, the media, the NHS and modern "culture" all hit home, sometimes painfully so. This is why its so sad that the vehicle for these messages - the plotline - has unfortunately "lost the plot".
All in all, it might be a book worth taking on holiday for a bit of light relief from time to time, so long as you are aware that Vernon God Little is in a completely different league.
on 11 December 2006
It's a poor follow-up to Vernon God Little, and the majority of it's readers will be drawn to it on the basis of that debut novel.
I concur with most of the other reviewers here. DBCP creates two seperate vignettes - one centred around a peasant family in a former Soviet Republic, the other around two UK twins born cojoined and since separated. Both vignettes show early promise, with the relentless bickering of the Heath siblings in particular rousing one or two belly-laughs. Unfortunately DBCP pretty much runs out of steam on both strands before a third of the novel has passed. The middle third of the novel is a tired rehash of what's gone before, with neither vignette going anywhere fast. This leads to a contrived and rushed final third where DBCP tries (and fails) to tie the whole lot together in a satisfactory and credible manner.
It ain't really worthy of 3 stars, though i was reluctant to give it a mere 2. Some of the early dialogue will amuse many, while DBCP's sharp use of the similie remains often inspired, though at times overcooked. The Heath twins provide most of the smiles, with the peasant family vignette providing some early Borat-esque laughs before rapidly outstaying it's welcome.
Coming 3 years after the inspired Vernon God Little we could've expected better. Here's hoping DBCP's future releases offer us more.
on 9 September 2012
I read this 5 years after Vernon and shortly after Lights Out and I think that many of the reviews here prove that this book shouldn't be read hot on the heels of Vernon, and certainly not with expectations that it is logically follows. Whilst Vernon had a wide audience for its subject, I think you would only enjoy the subsequent books if you like the author's style.
I really enjoyed this, it is odd and off beat, but the characters and situation in Russia is illuminating and funny; the twins slightly more surreal. It all meshes together and the finale reminded me of the end of The Lieutenant of Innishmore where all the strands come together in a tragically comic way.
I could have done with the events happening in a slightly more fixed period of time rather than a future that could be 2 or 50 years hence (or being DBCP a future 10 years ago!). I am also borderline 3 stars, but have given 4 as I enjoyed this more than most of the 3 star reviewers seem to have done.
on 10 May 2006
I only read the reviews of Ludmila's Broken English after I had finished the book and when I was formulating the review for it, which seem to go against the grain, I almost found myself mentally justifying my ability to review this book by the other books I have read, almost a way of convincing myself I hadn't just missed the point of the whole thing through a poor knowledge of literature or inordinate bad taste. Thankfully though I thought this through and realised how ridiculous it is - frankly I just didn't really like the book, there is nothing wrong in that.
The book is split between two stories that ultimately converge together, which for me happens far too late in the book to have any impact. By the time the two threads are intertwined I felt all the various elements of the story were being rushed to finish in fewer than 320 pages, if it had been allowed to blossom then maybe it would have recovered.
The first story follows Bunny and Blair, conjoined twins who after 33 years finally have the operation they should have had soon after their birth - and are surgically removed from one and other. After such a time Blair and Bunny are both wildly reliant on each other and one thing that DBC Pierre does do so well is to write this relationship with all its latent animosity, anger and love. I found this element of the book to be the far superior, both Bunny and Blair had me laughing out loud at times but it also wonderfully emphasised the appalling treatment these twins have had to suffer in their lives.
The second story is told from the perspective of Ludmila and her family in the war torn region of Ublilsk - this is the side of the story I felt was less relevant although equally well told but it's just not a great story. The language used is what I would call "appropriate" and the humour that this produces is there but frankly the direction of this family is just not necessary. Now DBC Pierre is known for using this style to great affect - see Vernon God Little - but frankly I just don't think it worked here.
Overall I found the descriptive writing and dialogue as wonderfully original as I was expecting, and is frankly the only reason this gets 3 stars as I found the plot and storyline to be woefully paper thin, to me this book really doesn't show off DBC Pierre's immense writing ability, if you read Vernon God Little then be warned, this doesn't hold a candle to it.
on 16 January 2007
I loved "Vernon God Little". Smart, original, cunning, sharp. I liked it almost as much as I really hated this. Contrived, ill-thought through, self indulgent, weak. I found myself hoping that DBC never gets a deal for another book. I am stunned amazon could make this a best book of 2006. Very very poor.
on 10 August 2012
I first heard of DBC Pierre on a strange documentary show. It showed you his life and had descriptions of his first book "Vernon God Little". I bought and read the book, enjoyed it thoroughly, and decided to pick up any future work he created based solely on the strength of that work. I have yet to be disappointed in that decision.
Ludmilla's Broken English is his strong second offering, and to my mind, his finest work to date. A rough synopsis, the book is split between three protagonists, two separated Siamese twins in England, and a dirt-poor young girl living in an Eastern Bloc country. Both are living relatively meaningless lives, but the paths they take slowly begin to intertwine, leading to an incredible crescendo. I hasten to include any more information, but needless to say the story is all at once a dark journey with humourous touches, but with a phenomenal and subtle malaise running throughout. In one chapter it can have you laughing, another your stomach will just drop. I was carried throughout, and have recommended/lent this book to family and friends, all of whom have raved about it.
I will say, I'm stunned by the volume of negative reviews here. I won't play some tired "they didn't get it line" as I am a firm believer that art is subjective and will illicit a variety of reactions, but I would perhaps stipulate that the number of people who loved this book, I simply believe haven't written their reviews to the same degree as those who did not. I am one of the former, and I am making my, and my family's view known here, buy this book, you will not regret it.
I was a little disappointed by this book after reading Vernon God Little. DBC Pierre's originality is unquestionable, but sometimes it feels as if he is just testing his readers' limits, trying to conjure up scenarios as shocking as possible without any real coherence to them.
It's fairly obvious from the names of the story's main characters, Blair and Gordon, previously conjoined twins who have now been separated, that there is an element of allegory and social critique to this book. But it's not so obvious what the criticism being made is, other than a general nihilism not a million miles from Will Self's.
But all that said, the book is a pretty enjoyable read and Pierre's linguistic skills again come to the fore with some of the incredible Ubli insults and other sayings that he manages to formulate.
Like Yann Martel with 'Life of Pi' in 2002, D. B. C. Pierre's success in winning the Man Booker Prize with 'Vernon God Little' a year later has not been followed by unanimous critical success.
Here, Blair and Gordon [an association that is not pursued] are 33-year-old Siamese twins who, as a result of NHS privatisation, have been surgically separated and removed from Albion House, their care home. Blair is determined to exploit his independence in a world 'churning with opportunity, rowdy with the chatter of freedom, globalization, self-empowerment. Sex.' Gordon, referred to as Bunny, is frailer and wishes to return to the security of the home and its regular servings of Shepherd's Pie. Occasionally the complex relationship between the two brothers is revealed but a much defter approach is needed to bring this out.
Meanwhile in Ublilsk, a republic in the Caucasus at war with its neighbours, Ludmila Derev is attacked by her lecherous grandfather and kills him. As his pension is no longer available to keep the family in food and alcohol, Ludmila's mother makes her son sell his tractor and Ludmila become a prostitute. Instead Ludmila meets a man who promises her a fortune by including her details on a global website for men seeking Russian brides.
The language used to present these stories and their dialogue, in particular, is complicated. Those of Ublilsk seems to have been translated into several other Central Asian languages before the final English; `in the aura known to rise off brutal shifts of fortune, known to lace its gas with arabesques like squealings of Armenian clarinet, she should've sensed trouble's nest was made' is typical. This prevents differentiation between the members of the Derev family - a point recognised by the inclusion of a key to the interrelationship of its six members.
Very slowly the intersection of these two story strands is reached but I found each page akin to a journey through treacle with the strong narrative voice of `Vernon God Little' being absent. The author's targets are easy to see - privatisation and free market capitalism, terrorism [occurring in northern England and in and around Ublilsk, and the lot of the poorest in society. However, his satirical bludgeoning is often little more than spray-can graffiti.
Not for the first time one wonders about the role of the literary editor. One can understand an author seeking to develop and exploit a new narrative voice but it must surely be obvious that, as presented here, there are problems obscuring its clarity. One suspects that Pierre might not be easiest writer to deal with. This is a pity because there is the basis of an interesting, albeit hit-and-miss novel here. The sense of the absurd is a tradition of the Russian novel but it needs to be more rooted in reality to have bite. The same is true of satire and, compared to that of Pierre's debut novel, here the author's heart seems not wholly in his work.
There are flashes of his harsh style; the baby brothers are described on the first page as `a snarl of raw sausages with hopeful eyes', whilst behind Ludmila's brother, as he drives off in his tractor, `a last puddle of sun soaked under the horizon.' But too often the author falls back on Ubli phrases such as `don't get worms over me', `present me your face', `pelt a lash' and `cut your hatch', and dialogue such as `His heart's scarcely cold before you paint me geese in the sky!' that soon loose their initial novelty and impact.
When the climax of the book is eventually reached I had given up caring sufficiently about Ludmila and the brothers to be greatly bothered. The worlds of the East and West are as disconnected as the two twins and there is a need to establish, or in the latter case, re-establish contacts to overcome emotional and physical isolation. This point could have been made more pointedly, however.
Both Martel and Pierre have very original voices and the pressures that they face in following up their Booker success are formidable. I wish both well and hope that readers will remain loyal. Ludmila's Broken English is a disappointment, but I remain optimistic, 5/10.
on 17 March 2012
This book is weird - at first I wondered why the style was a bit weird, but then I got what Pierre was aiming for with his language and it all made sense. I get the feeling that others here didn't quite get to that point, which is a shame but something that happens when authors take risks. For me though, he pulled it off. The Russian scenes are great and the language hilarious, the bits in the UK are also good - and the satire on the Blair government works. It's not a similar book to Vernon G Little, but hey, give the guy credit for trying something different. Worth a read!
on 7 October 2006
This has to be one of the worst books I have ever read. I'm horrified that DBC Pierre can put out such rubbish after "Vernon God Little" which was a fresh, original and genuinely funny piece of writing.
Admittedly, the concept of East and West meeting up is pretty good. But that's the only thing. The dialogue within the book is pure drivel, an attempt to sound wacky and comical which grates on the reader more and more as they go into the book. Meanwhile, the story itself takes a century to unfold, appearing to go nowhere in particular and after just over 100 pages I was thoroughly fed up.
If you're looking for something funny and are a fan of the surreal then maybe this book will appeal to you. If not, stay away. Try "How I Paid for College" by Mark Acito instead; albeit, just as crude, it's much more hilarious and the dialogue doesn't give you headaches either.