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29 Reviews
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The family photograph album ...
This is a very cleverly crafted novel, chronicling the lives, loves and disasters of a mainly dysfunctional family living in "Middle England" during the 1950's to the present day. The central characters are not particularly endearing, and seem peculiarly superficial - but this is because the book is written through the lens of a camera. The camera is wielded by the...
Published 16 months ago by taiaha

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have happily given this one star or five!
Not sure what to make of this one at all. A family saga running from the 50s to the 90s charting the lives and times of the Freeman family, this book is easy to admire but difficult to like.
Pears does a good job of balancing the historical sweep with the individual stories, and I certainly believed in and became involved with the characters. However, the fate of...
Published on 11 May 2001


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have happily given this one star or five!, 11 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: In a Land of Plenty (Paperback)
Not sure what to make of this one at all. A family saga running from the 50s to the 90s charting the lives and times of the Freeman family, this book is easy to admire but difficult to like.
Pears does a good job of balancing the historical sweep with the individual stories, and I certainly believed in and became involved with the characters. However, the fate of James Freeman, who is the nearest thing the book has to a main character, is so cruel and sad that the book leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. I'm not giving anything away here, the books starts with a 'flash forward' that makes it clear he doesn't have a happy end. Which means you read the whole book with a growing sense of foreboding.
This is a very serious book which takes itself very seriously. There is little if any humour here. It is also seems to me a very pessimistic book it terms of its view of life. Perhaps that is a reflection of the state of Britain in the mid 1990s.
I don't regret reading it (and it was along haul) but would find it difficult to recommend it to anyone. Approach with caution!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The family photograph album ..., 9 April 2013
This review is from: In A Land Of Plenty (Paperback)
This is a very cleverly crafted novel, chronicling the lives, loves and disasters of a mainly dysfunctional family living in "Middle England" during the 1950's to the present day. The central characters are not particularly endearing, and seem peculiarly superficial - but this is because the book is written through the lens of a camera. The camera is wielded by the central character, James, an obsessive and socially inept photographer.

The whole book is written in mainly short paragraphs, each acting as a snapshot of family life as it develops (or not) through the lifetime of James. Just occasionally, there is a snapshot out of chronological order, which piques our curiosity, and we glimpse a fate that we know, but not why. And it is the why? that leads us on...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good family saga, 7 Nov 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: In a Land of Plenty (Hardcover)
All in all a good read, however I found the story speeds up and slows down through the years without warning, resulting in that i found myself fliping back through previous pages to check what had just happened.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 10 May 2005
This review is from: In A Land Of Plenty (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes a book about everyday people, that you can really get your teeth into. The characters are brilliantly described and the most central member of the Freeman family, James, is a genuinely inspiring person. It is sad what happens to him and I kept on willing him to live happily ever after with the woman of his dreams, but, as in real life, sometimes things just aren't meant to be.
I don't think the book is too long or a slog in places, as described by others. The book is a reflection of life in that sometimes not very much happens, and at other times your whole world can be turned upside down. All of the characters in this book become friends and you end up caring for all of them.
This book made me laugh, smile, almost cry, and made me fearful of turning the page when things turn sour for James and Laura. This book was also responsible for me spending many a day at work struggling to stay awake and concentrate after I had stayed up until the early hours of the morning unable to put it down. Read it!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant.., 2 Aug 2001
This review is from: In a Land of Plenty (Paperback)
A warm, moving family chronicle which was difficult to put down after the first 50 or so scene- setting pages. One of the best books I have read. Usually I ignore the overly hyped reviews which publishers insert at the beginning of books but on this occasion I agreed with all the praise.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to engage with any of the characters, 3 May 2001
By A Customer
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This review is from: In A Land Of Plenty (Paperback)
We've just read this book in our book group and feel that there must be something wrong with all of ten of us, because none of could engage with or believe in any of the characters. It didn't seem clear who or what the book was about, and we wondered if it had been written with a visual eye (eg with TV adapation in mind) rather than with the internal life that you expect in the written novel. In the end, it just seemed like a tragic saga of some rather unusual people.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Characters lack emotional depth., 20 July 2001
This review is from: In A Land Of Plenty (Paperback)
I enjoyed the first third of this book more than the rest apart from the odd bit of good descriptive comment. I saw it as a sort of short history summary, which failed to draw on the depth of emotion that should have been experienced by the various characters. It was as if the author was saying there are no consequences to be faced for bad behaviour - only nice people pay the price, perhaps that was what he was trying to convey. Overall I found it a bit boring.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?, 15 Oct 2008
By 
Caterkiller (Darlington, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In A Land Of Plenty (Paperback)
A Forsythe Saga for the 20th Century, what could be more exciting? You have the back-drop of post-war austerity, the swinging Sixties, the winter of discontent and the Thatcher years; how could it fail? BY NOT HAVING A SINGLE INTERESTING THING HAPPEN OVER THE ENTIRE 600 PAGES! There are plenty of involving characters but each could have done with their own story, not shoe-horned together so that in order to keep the narrative linear there is no scope for interesting or involving incidents to happen in their lives. Charles, as the patriarch of the family would have made a great central character as his business thrives then fails but he is just one of a cast and so we don't learn too much about him. Laura and Robert's relationship occurs and ends while another character is the subject of the narrative so we never discover how it started or why it went so wrong, and that is the most interesting plot strand in the book! If you want a family saga try Middlemarch, if you want a "rise and fall" story try "A Man in Full", if you want to feel short-changed read this.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better, 3 April 2014
By 
Anthony J. Armstrong (Ilkley, West Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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I really wanted to like this book as I love long books that enable one to understand characters and plot in depth (I've read War and Peace twice!). However, I nearly gave up on this book many times and it was only the vague (and increasingly vaguer) hope that it would grip me that kept me going. The plot is not existent and the characters are curiously like cardboard cutouts that the author move around his beloved fictional town that he describes ad nauseum. The only exception to my comments concerning the two dimensional nature of the characters is an extended love scene between two main players (I'll not spoil by revealing) that is quite the most lifelike, touching and emotional I have read. and then the book becomes boring once more.
I have lived through this period but I recognised little of the world painted here.
The author touches upon so many aspects of life over the course of this book but it is clear that when it comes to business he is woefully out of his depth (especially his knowledge of insolvency law).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks pace, too long and required editing, 1 May 2013
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In A Land Of Plenty (Paperback)
A family saga of the second half of the 20th century set in the Midlands and extending over 630 pages? Having recently read Tim Pears' debut novel, "In the Place of Fallen Leaves", from 1993, I opened his second book, published four years later, with considerable anticipation.

The novel, covering some 40 years from 1952, centres on the Freeman family: father, Charles (a bullying industrialist), and mother, Mary (sleepwalker and likely suicide), children Simon (smug hypochondriac), James (father-hating, mother-loving), Robert (furious with the world, resentful) and Alice (solemn, vegetarian and vigilant), cousin Zoe, and Laura (practical and supportive) the daughter of their cook and housekeeper, Edna.

Except for Zoe, a wandering hippy who takes charge of her grandmother's cinema, they all live in a crowded mansion on the outskirts of an English mill town. At the beginning the story lacks a firm centre, shifting between the different characters and their friends, before it eventually locates James, who lacks a focus to his life (pun intended) until he discovers photography.

The problem with this book is that the author appears to have started off with their personalities already established to cover a broad range of personal characteristics and, since these do not really develop over the course of the narrative, the reader is left urging the author to get a move on.

The book was adapted as a serial for the BBC and one can see the attraction of this. One wonders whether the author had one eye on this possibility when writing the novel since the structure he has adopted is one of recurrent vignettes which shift the scene from location to location and from character to character. this, however, disrupts the overall narrative flow of the story and contributes to the ultimate lack of satisfaction that I felt on coming to the end.

Some effective editing might have cut down the number of pages quite substantially which would have led to a general tightening up of the narrative. Alice's early-morning sickness soon after returning from her honeymoon and the ignorance of her husband to what this might signify is surely one creaking plot-line too far.

Another structural problem is that he story opens with a scene set at the end of the chronological spread of the novel which removes some of the surprise from a dream-like situation occurring much later on. Some aspects of the story border on farce - Alice's Indian husband eats a very hot curry and, as a result, takes a belly-flop into the garden pond. It also seems somewhat unlikely that Laura, with a household to feed everyday would have developed into quite such a skilled cook. One almost expected her to be revealed as Fanny and Johnny Craddock's god-daughter.

There were, to me, a number of very poorly drawn characters: Robbie, the children's nanny; Garfield, the cricket-loving, West Indian trade union leader in Charles' factory; Pascale, a French student, "what eez wrong wiz Ingleesh boys?";

There are pages when the narrative creeps along with not a great deal happening; whilst this is the reality of life it makes for a rather uninteresting story. Whilst Pears is very effective at dropping in references to current events (starting with the Festival of Britain), people, newspapers, current technology (ending with a Walkman) so as to reinforce the period, he is less successful in catching the period through the language used by the characters in the home, at work and in their spare time. For a novel spanning the 1950s-1990s the spirit of Mrs Thatcher looms large "off-page".

The ambition of the novel is obvious but my lasting impression is of a large duvet cover full of sentences that required a good shaking followed by the whole being allowed to to settle. Admittedly, this is only the author's second novel. What a pity it was not put on one side and then returned to. This might have led to a shorter and better book.
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In A Land Of Plenty
In A Land Of Plenty by Tim Pears (Paperback - 2 April 1998)
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