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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Misogynist
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
I started reading this book with a heavy heart. After all, who really wants to read another book about a grumpy old man who is grumpy about being an old man? I love Philip Roth, so I do enjoy this kind of book when done well, but Jomier, the main character, didn't immediately appeal to me.

After just a little while, though, I began to look forward to picking the book back up. Jomier is so well-drawn by Piers Paul Read: his fastidious accounting of the smallest receipt, his residual anger about his expensive divorce, his minimalist flat and his computerised journals (Jomier is anticipating the day when his entire life fits onto one memory stick). And he is particularly well-drawn because despite all this, the reader slowly finds themselves rooting for Jomier.

There is a good story, too. Jomier begins full of bile at all women his age, for their chickeny necks and podgy stomachs (it's not especially comfortable reading). But then he meets a slightly less chickeny, podgy yoga teacher called Judith, and an odd, but satisfying romance begins. So is Jomier really the misogynist of the title? Or can he find love? On top of all this being resolved, there is also a plot concerning his wife and children that I found really intriguing, especially when Jomier makes a desperate gesture in a moment of hopelessness and ends up changing how he must approach his whole life.

In the end, a really satisfying read. I can't wait for the book groups to get their hands on it, either - Jomier is rather hard on ladies in book groups....
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Piers Paul Read, while not in the premier league of contemporary British novelists,could be described - along with authors such as David Lodge - as being somewhere in the middle of the First Division. (As an aside: if you like David Lodge - especially the David Lodge of 'How Far Can You Go' - you might well like Piers Paul Read.)

'The Misogynist' is fairly funny in places, the satire is acute and, in the end, it is really quite moving. Ultimately, it is a novel about 'Grace'(traditionally: God's unmerited favour;the way in which a decisive re-orientation in a person's life is received as a gift rather than through their own efforts). Piers Paul Read is a Catholic and several of his novels end with a 'conversion' (in the broadest sense)of a character who was not necessarily previously likeable or sympathetic. It is important to note, however, that this change can be ambigious - or open to interpretation - as in Read's earlier novel, 'Monk Dawson'. So things are not religiously simplistic - and the end of 'The Misogynist'also has its cross currents.

From the very first page of this novel you are in the world and among the thoughts and reflections of Jomier - a sixty-something, retired lawyer - still holding on to the resentments caused by his wife leaving him (some years previously, we gather)for another man. The story is told in short sentences throughout. At first this seemed like an excellent device to portray Jomier's inner world;it also contributes to a feeling of detached irony. After, a 100 pages, though, I began to find its unmitigated use a little unsatisfying - I did find myself wondering whether it wasn't, in fact, a rather lazy way to write a novel.

You can't help but like Jomier as a character - and he is excellently and believably portrayed. His dyspeptic thoughts and perceptions are always entertaining. And that is what this book really is: a thoroughly good entertainment, a fairly light read, but not as thoughtful as 'A Season in the West' or as complex and dramatic as 'A Married Man'. There is a good twist at the end of 'The Misogynist', however.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2012
Having long been a fan of Read's fiction, I expected The Misogynist to be thought-provoking and beautifully written; I did not anticipate it being such an enjoyable read. Perhaps the title inclined me to believe that time spent in the company of Jomier, the book's lead character and the misogynist of the title, would be an irksome affair. In fact, the title traduces him. Jomier, is, in fact, an equal opportunities hater - he dislikes men as much as women, people of all classes and races, but especially people of his own race and class who he thinks have done better than him. Divorced, in his sixties, cuckolded and impoverished by his ex-wife, he counts his life something of a failure - with the exception of producing children, now grown-up, and yet Jomier's observations on life have a mordant wit that make him surprisingly good company. Read's prose has a pellucid quality matched by few modern writers, and his story is a chewy and satisfying tale about morality, modern manners, and, above all, Jomier's relationship with his God. All this is skilfully handled, and the twist in the tale, which I didn't see coming, shows Read to be a consummate storyteller. He deserves a new and enthusiastic readership among the Kindle generation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2011
What I like about Piers Paul Read's novels is the skilful way he gives life to his characters, and the way that what they will do, how they will behave, seems inevitable from what we learn about them. Jomier is beautifully drawn, not a particularly attractive man, his foibles make him somewhat unappealing, but after a time you become fond of him, and hope that things won't be so bad for him after all.
SPOILER ALERT The most successful part of the book is, I think, the description of his relationship with his beloved daughter Louisa, who lives in South America, and who he doesn't see very often until she is dying of a disease that doctors have failed to diagnose. She comes to London, and Jomier recognises the disease as a rare inherited condition that killed a friend, and with that the sudden certainty that Louisa is not his daughter, but the result of his former wife's infidelity. He invents an ancestor for himself with this condition, to spare his former wife, and Louisa is treated appropriately. Redemption is what it's called.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2012
Piers Paul Read wrote a novel called "A Married Man" about 30 years ago about a lawyer in his early 40s and the trials (no pun intended) and tribulations of his domestic life.

It was an easy read despite a somewhat improbable plot about a middle-class barrister called John Strickland* trying to become a Labour electoral candidate, his half-American mistress, bad-tempered English wife and melodramatic ending involving low-class criminals from east London.

Fast forward 30 years to "The Misogynist" and we basically end up with "A Married Man Volume 2" although with a different character (a retired lawyer in his mid-60s called Jomier, this time) but similar frustrations centering on his family, ex-wife, new flame, money, English politics and life in London.

The first part is basically a rant in which the character lashes out at what he hates about modern day life, political correctness etc.

It would be mildly amusing in the Daily Telegraph or Spectator, for example, but is out of place in what is supposed to be a novel and I was about to ditch the book when finally a plot appeared.

Not much of a plot and not a very original plot - basically boy meets girl or rather pensioner meets pensioner - but at least a plot.

From then on we follow a romance that we know is doomed and meet a series of people the two main characters have picked up in their lives - ex-husbands, lovers, ex-wives, children, grandchildren.

Most are totally implausible and disappear as soon as they have played their cameo roles - e.g. the Irishman who becomes an American Jew and says things like: "To be anti-Zionist is to be anti-Semitic.

We are also supposed to believe that a woman, talking about her pregnancy, would describe her son as "just a cluster of cells in my womb."

There is a soap opera episode involving Jomier's daughter who appears to be dying of a mysterious illness and a few jokey references to Viagra and what it is like to have sex when you are in your sixties.

As with all Read's books, there are Graham Greene-type references to God, sin, Catholicism and, as the main character is conveniently a descendant of French Huguenots , Protestantism.

If you are familiar with Read's material, you'll know what to expect and might enjoy this but I would not go out of my way to buy it.

*Played by the young Anthony Hopkins in a TV series before he went to Holywood and made a fortune in those disgusting Hannibal films.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2011
I simply loved this novel. Although the main character isn't particularly sympathetic I found myself fascinated by his life, thoughts and emotions. It is an incredibly realistic portrayal of life in London for a man of a certain age. The media is focused on expressing the desires and problems of women in great detail, so this intimate description of a man's inner life was doubly interesting, intimate and often touching. A book that will appeal to both men and women, and you can't say that about many books. Beautifully written and every page a treat.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2011
This is a wonderful novel about a man who is not easy to like. We are however led on a journey of discovery, this man's discovery of a new self, or perhaps a larger self. Absobing and highly recommended
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2010
On first reading this book, it occurred to me that here is the author's protagonist John Strickland ( A Married Man) twenty odd years on. At the end of the book I felt the same. Certainly Jomier uses the same terms about women 'puny breasts' and so on and this time again it is another character who embraces the Catholic faith rather than our hero who mid point in the novel clearly regards it as so much fairy tale gobbledy gook. What happens later, if not a conversion as such, is certainly a deal with the God he previously denied.
Some folk have dismissed this author as a kind of poor man's Graham Greene I find him quite different. The dialogue at the dinner parties, which Jomier reluctantly attends as a sought after spare man, is exquisite it exactly hits the tone of these 21st century soirees. There is also a riveting exchange with his neo con friend from the US who after an anti Muslim rants virtually spits in Jomiers's face , 'Just who's side are you on?'
The ambivalence felt by the long divorced, towards a new live-in relationship is so well drawn, of course the hugs and the good night cuddles are enjoyable, but at what cost -literally in this case- too often Jomier hears the siren call of his empty double bed and his flat screen TV.
Judith, the girlfriend of his twilight years is an amiable woman, she rides out Jomier's moods, her body is lithe from yoga and raw foods and yet....You feel she may be as good as it gets for this aging lover but solitude is going to win.
As far as the writing style is concerned I concur with the first reviewer the short sentences start to grate, moreover a great deal is written in the present tense and I can see no valid reason for this at all, at times it reads like notes for a novel rather than a novel itself.
More irritating though is the authors habit of peppering his prose with snippets of French or sometimes Latin. as I turned a page I found myself automatically scanning for the next set of italics. In such quantity it is hard to draw any other reason for this other than pretension, Good God, the man cannot even stand before a urinal it has to be a pissoir. I am well aware of the author's knowledge of mainland Europe and its languages without having to suffer all these little bon mots as he would say.
The ending succeeded for me in being a complete surprise, it won't blow your head away but is it surprising enough and you can make as much or as little of Jomier's late decision to confer with a deity as you wish.

Altogether a satisfying read much deeper and denser than it appears and well worth a second reading
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 5 August 2012
I've read the bulk of Pier Paul Read's oeuvre, and it's a delight to rediscover something new he's written about every five years. I lived in West London, so I appreciated his skewering of upper middle class pretensions and obsessions. It's also very good on remarriage in old age, and the problems it creates. It's a rather painful analysis of life in the C21st with its high house prices and complex family relationships. I read it in a week, and I found the ending very satisfying. Three cheers for an excellent and unfashionable Catholic novelist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2011
I enjoyed this very much. Many of his so-called 'rants' are pretty spot on to my mind, not PC but pretty much the true reality of life in 21 century England. The book is a very comfortable read, engaging and thought-provoking. The only irritation is the over use of foreign phrases - french and latin...what's the point? This is the first of his books that I have read but I will now look out for his others.
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