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3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
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This is a very rewarding book, a story of a family going through a challenging time, with the eldest daughter being released from prison, bringing all sorts of undercurrents to the surface of this typically middle class family. JoJo was convicted of fraudulently handling some antique windows, while working in New York. Her family in England coped with this in various ways, but the greatest impact was on her parents. Her father went into denial and during her two year incarceration was unable to bring himself to visit her in jail, leaving her mother to go by herself. When the time comes for her release, JoJo's brother goes across to meet her at the prison and to take her through a few days of acclimatisation during which he keeps in touch with the other family members by telephone as they anticipate the reunion a the family home in Cornwall.
The book is tense at times, largely centring on the relationship between the mother and father who find various way of not coping very well. There is also an element of the detective novel about this book as clearly, JoJo's conviction was not the best example of US justice and requires investigation by her brother, who delves into the truth behind it. I would rate this as an extremely well-written book which deserves the reputation is has gained since its release.
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on 3 May 2005
This book has had incredible reviews, and rightly so. It is a moving account of a family's attempts to come to terms with the fact that their eldest daughter, the golden girl of the family, has been imprisoned for an art theft. We get all five members of the family's point of view, and it ends with an astonishing scene when they are finally re-united. One critic, and I heartily agree, described this as the most moving book he has read in ten years. But a word of warning: it is not a feel-good,sentimental read, which is what some of the people who have written in expect. It is a genuine work of literature, but very accessible and very contemporary. Please, please read this if you are interested in the way we live now.
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on 25 June 2005
It's very rare to read a novel so full of ideas and observations, and to find at the same time that it is very enjoyable and easy to read. I couldn't put it down. It's about a family in crisis, but still agonisingly funny. The favourite daughter has been involved in an art theft in New York, and the novel opens on the day she is let out of prison. Her parents, Daphne and Charles, her sister Sophie and her brother Charlie are all wonderfully well described. Charles is having something of a crisis, unable to come to terms with his daughter's imprisonment. The book is crammed full of moving and - as I said - funny moments, and lays bare the soul of this family. There are also interesting observations on art, on families, on life as we live it now. Don't miss this book. They hype is definitely justified.
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on 5 February 2005
Justin Cartright is a writer with a fantastic ability to observe. In this case he has turned his attention to an English family, the Judds, whose lives have been turned upside down by the arrest of their eldest daughter, Juliet, in New York two years before. The book opens on the day she is released after two years. Each member of the family reacts they wait for her return to Cornwall. And each member of the family is superbly drawn. I am not surprised this has had such fantastic reviews. I read it straight through, unable to put it down. At times I thought the author must have known my own family.
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on 22 June 2005
I was so, so disappointed by this book, the reviews and online recommendations, had built my hopes up quite high.
But the book, was dull, laborious and tedious to read.
I've read better about family reactions, from different view points etc. Some of the characters were particularly unlikable, and it was very much written from a male view point. As a female, some of it was disheartening.
overall it lacked pace, and was overly concerned with how people find their true happiness, in an obvious pop psychology way, which grated more than anything.
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on 12 March 2006
This is a family novel of an apparently ordinary English family. But in the course of
unravelling the story of all five members, which starts on the day the favourite daughter Juliet is released from jail, we get a intimate and moving and above all
utterly honest picture of the Judd family of London and Cornwall. The New York Times raved about it, which is how I first heard of it, saying it was "unsurpassed", and now
I find that all my friends are raving about it. But it is not just some Aga Saga. It is very subtle and moving. It's really taken the old Aga Saga format and turned it into
literature. Don't miss this one!
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on 27 August 2006
If you are a traditionalist and like story telling with a straight forward construction told in the past tense, you will hate this book! It is undoubtedly challenging as it jumps from the first to the third person from one paragraph to the next and the author interrupts at times too. It is basically about the sheer magical fascination of ordinary family life and I loved it. It smacks of reality and is poignant without stooping to the manipulative emotional hand wringing seen in so much contemporary writing. Highly recommended to anyone interested in human interaction and what might motivate behaviour.
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on 4 December 2005
Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad novel: it's well written and the observations are astute. But it's so tediously predictable, so tediously formulaic... above all it's just so tediously ENGLISH. The only surprise in the book is the biog, which says that Cartwright was born in South Africa and educated in the US, because you would never infer such a background from the writing. Yes, the multiple-perspective narrative is probably a nod to Faulkner, though nothing much is made of that connection (it's more a sly wink from the author). Both stylistically and in terms of its subject matter, the book is effectively a rehash of work that was being done almost twenty years ago by Julian Barnes, William Boyd et al. The clever use of up-to-the-minute language, which is probably what has persuaded some (amnesiac) reviewers to rave about the book, means that it will appear hopelessly dated in a few years' time. Within another decade I expect it to be forgotten altogether, and no number of nice reviews in the Sunday broadsheets will alter that.
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on 28 January 2006
I am suprised this book was so well received as it is ABSOLUTE trite. How can anyone truly believe that the author's observations and characterisation are anything other than glib and superficial? His grasp of language is puerile and you get the impression he has a list of long, 'impressive' words which he keeps on his desk, and sticks one in every now and again to beef up his lexicon. I stuck it out to the end, gnashing my teeth, writhing around in frustration, hoping that a twist in the story would prove to be its saving grace. But that too wheezed its way to the end, as if the author was himself bored out of his skull and eager to get it over with.
As was I.
Skip this pap and head straight for Alan Hollinghurst's "The Line of Beauty". Similar themes explored, but one is masterly, the other miserly.
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on 24 June 2005
i have enjoyed others of Cartright's books in the past, saw this featured on richard & judy so decided to read this too. it rankes as one of his best. he does particularly well to keep you involved and engaged with these characters even though some of them (Charles and Ju-Ju particularly) are not very likable. i went from enjoying watching the smug islington family disintegrating to feeling some affection for them (families are families wherever you are I guess). the usual humour is there too, although the queen mum joke is a bit old.
a great summer read in the 3 for 2s. who will play sophie (the wild child daughter) in the movie?
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