13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Devil's in the details
Expectations are always high when a great (and Donald Ray Pollocks short stories are exceptional) short story writer releases a novel. No need to worry here then as The Devil all The Time is an exceptionally good first novel. Brilliant, even.
Quite a hard book to summarize easily as it has multiple threads and characters that weave in and out of each other...
Published on 1 Aug 2011 by Mr. Gareth Price
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark American Gothic
A pretty good read. The book is dark; lots of nasty, demented characters doing lots of nasty, demented things to each other. There isn't much by way of redemption; just revenge and a slightly dirty feeling that some kind of wicked justice has been enacted. Roy the unhinged preacher and his ruined crippled sidekick provide some moments of true horror as do the disgusting...
Published 6 months ago by Assam
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Devil's in the details,
This review is from: The Devil All the Time (Hardcover)Expectations are always high when a great (and Donald Ray Pollocks short stories are exceptional) short story writer releases a novel. No need to worry here then as The Devil all The Time is an exceptionally good first novel. Brilliant, even.
Quite a hard book to summarize easily as it has multiple threads and characters that weave in and out of each other that then finally collide in blood and guts at the end. Literally the equivalent of a murder spree in prose it has little mercy for the squemish or faint of heart.
If you've read Knockemstiff then you will know the types of characters Mr Pollock writes about - outsiders, losers and the downright murderous. It's the quality of the writing that gets to you - hard edged and honest, tragedy shot through with humour, great dialogue. Writing in a voice that reminded me of some of my all-time favourite writers (Tim Gautreaux, Ron Rash, Larry Brown through Harry Crews and back to Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner although Mr Pollock has his own distinct style ) I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Brilliance,
This review is from: The Devil All the Time (Paperback)The Devil All The Time is among the most profound books I've ever read.
It has a place among the American classics in terms of the scope of the book and the quality of the voice. There are echoes of great writers of the past, something that is magnified to some extent by setting the story in the decades following the Second World War.
Having read and admired his short story collection `Knockemstiff', I'd been itching to see this on the UK shelves.
It's been a long time coming; the reasons for that are clear to see. The prose is lean and crafted so well that I imagine every single sentence has been given attention in the editing process. The characters, even those whose appearances are brief, are terrifically drawn and capture all five of the senses. The surroundings are vivid without being overstated. The plot begins like loose fibres which are twisted and bound together to form a rope of the highest quality.
The story strips the human race to the bone. Exposes it for what it is - animals with the capacity to think and use language. We meet obsessions relating to basic drive and self-preservation - sex, mortality, religion and murder.
It reveals what happens behind closed doors, the private moments that so many are keen to keep hidden.
One of the key images in the book is that of Miller Jones. He's not seen for long. Alvin Russell, who found him while serving in the South Pacific, stumbled into him on a patrol. Jones had been skinned alive and fixed to a cross, was covered in flies and his heart was still beating visibly inside his chest. Alvin Russell does the best he can. Shoots Jones in the skull. Hangs around for a while and exacts revenge on those who did the skinning.
It's kind of Old Testament. Hints at one of the book's themes, the interpretation of religion to satisfy personal ends, yet also of the hope that lives within us all. That beating heart is like the flickering of a candle flame. Demonstrates just what we'll try and survive in order to keep going.
There is darkness within the pages, no doubt about it. Hardly a stone of depravity is left unturned. All the same, the scenes are handled perfectly. None of the situations or actions are shied away from, though none of them are revelled in either. It might have been an easy way out to tangle us up in description and detail, yet he draws enough of a sketch for us to see the picture and leaves the colouring in to our own imaginations. These scenes are not graphic or cold, but they hold all the more power for that.
I've seen Mr Pollock compared to practically all of the [male] giants of American literature of the Twentieth Century. I can't add to the list without stepping out of my depth, though I'd be tempted to throw in some European influences also if I were to do so. He clearly belongs to a very special group of authors indeed - those who can tell a story that isn't going to be forgotten any time soon, those whose books will survive more than one generation and those with the ability to reach right into a reader's mind and scratch words onto the inside of the skull lest they might try and forget - and the sooner he's hailed as such in literary circles, the better.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark American Gothic,
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars evocative slice of country noir,
This review is from: The Devil All the Time (Paperback)The Devil All the Time is noir to its core, relentless dark and bleak with hardly a thin crack of light of hope and redemption on the horizon. The book has many positives. It is beautifully written in well crafted and evocative prose, delivered in an even, rhythmic cadence. The story is well rooted in time and place, capturing the rural mid-West in the post-war period, and the murky social relations, petty crime and more that shaped communities and the bonds between family members. The characters are well realised, their weaknesses, vices, foibles and back story nicely penned. The whole book had the feel of craft to it, both the story and the physical artefact - the book is beautifully produced. And yet, for all this, I wasn't fully captured by and immersed in the story. And I should have been: The Devil All the Time is carefully sculpted, literary, crime fiction. Don't get me wrong, this was a very good and engaging read, but it could have been stellar. On reflection, I think the issue was that for most of the book the narrative seemed liked a set of well written, interlinked vignettes stretched out over a fifteen year span, so the arc of the story felt like loose connections rather than being tight, taut web. Pollack does pull all of the threads together, but there's no change in tempo as it nears the end; more a quiet, understated but violent resolution and an opening for the tale to continue. Overall, a polished and evocative slice of country noir that portrays starkly the dark underbelly of rural America.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Some people were born just so they could be buried...",
This review is from: The Devil All the Time (Hardcover)[This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown.]
If you've heard of Donald Ray Pollock, it was probably due to his collection of interlinked short stories, Knockemstiff published back in 2009, set in the titular town. His debut novel, The Devil All the Time (Doubleday) treads similar ground, spending most of its time in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia in the late 1950s and early 1960s, tracking and recording a wide range of psychopathic behaviors by a motley crew of misfits and delinquents.
What Pollock does so well is create a place and time where nothing he says or shows us is beyond belief. From the beginning we see how things are in Knockemstiff, and we understand the desperation, the need for prayer, the aching hope that something will change and improve.
"Four hundred or so people lived in Knockemstiff in 1957, nearly all of them connected by blood through one God-forsaken calamity or another, be it lust or necessity or just plain ignorance. Along with the tar-papered shacks and cinder block houses, the holler included two general stores and a Church of Christ in Christian Union and a joint known throughout the township as the Bull Pen."
We follow a large cast of screwed up people, starting with Arvin Eugene Russell, who witnesses the death of his mother from disease, and the suicide of his father, damaged and distraught by the loss of his wife. Arvin is forced to worship and beg at a praying log, the forest drenched with blood, rotting carcasses and handmade crosses littering the ground, the stench and desperate act nothing short of abuse. When local lawman, Lee Boedecker shows up, he is shocked to find such ruins:
"Bodecker lifted his flashlight. Animals in various states of decay hung all around them, some in the branches and others from tall wooden crosses. A dead dog with a leather collar around its neck was nailed up high to one of the crosses like some kind of hideous sacrifice. The head of a deer lay at the foot of another."
Arvin eventually sets out on the road and leaves behind his tortured past, but the road is not easy or kind. Out on the highways and back roads are people like his neighbors, Carl and Sandy Henderson. Carl likes to take pictures of his naked wife fondling strange men, before and after he puts a bullet in the stunned hitchhikers, leaving bodies all over the southern states. Sandy bartends and whores, quick to jump in the sack with whatever man gives her an iota of grace and kindness, never phased by the violence she witnesses up close.
We also follow a preacher, Roy, and his crippled, deviant guitarist Theodore, as they travel from a bewildered church to a circus filled with horny bird-women and drunken clowns to a desperate life as field hands and hobos. Carl and Sandy have cast a wide net, and eventually they pull in the tired, beaten down Roy, and ask him to be one of their models.
We come to expect the worst, so when it arrives we are not shocked, but instead hypnotized, wondering when the dark souls who dance about the page will finally get their comeuppance. We wait for justice to descend, for all of the cruel, violent acts to be punished, for the righteous to be redeemed in the end.
By slowing down time, and allowing us to stare unflinching at the death and destruction that unfolds in the hot shadows of the back woods and gravel roads, immersed in the constant thrumming of the buzzing cicadas, we bare witness to these acts, so we may testify later of these atrocities. Take this moment from a late scene (the identity of the character hidden so as not to spoil your read):
"Something cold began to crawl over him. He felt his body start to sink into a hole that seemed to be opening up beneath him in the ground, and it scared him, that feeling, the way it sucked the breath right out of him. Gritting his teeth, he fought to climb out before he sank in to deep. He felt himself rising. Yes, by God, he could still fix things...but he was having trouble finding the air. Then something with huge black wings settled on top of him, pushing him down again; and even though he grabbed frantically at the grass and dirt with his left hand to keep from slipping, he couldn't stop himself this time."
What Donald Ray Pollock has created in The Devil All the Time is a dark, engaging portrait of human nature. He shows us what happens when there is nothing to believe in, when there is little chance of things getting better, when instead of the grace of God whispering in your ear it's the devil--all the time. This novel is not for the weak of mind or heart. It is for the devout, those with strong character and a firm grip on their own ascent into heaven.
5.0 out of 5 stars Good to the last,
This review is from: The Devil All the Time (Kindle Edition)Nearly all books disappoint at he end, but this one didn't. It was well written and evocative throughout and the characters were very real - the story becoming a fascinating and exciting page of America. From the first page it was clear the guy was a writer, too, with fine descriptions and page turning events. I look forward to his second novel.
5.0 out of 5 stars It seemed he fought the Devil all the time...,
I wasn't disappointed.
I love authors who can write about the darkest, ugliest, grittiest of subjects with beautiful writing.
Apart from Boxing at the Gym I normally do my best to avoid a beating but reading Pollock is always a punch to the guts I readily want and look forward to.
To make you feel something for, and be able to humanize characters even when showing you how monstrous they can be is a true talent alone let alone weave multiple threads and characters and have them meet in a convincing and satisfying way.
Recommended, a truly incredible read.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Devil All The Time,
At first I wasn't sure what to make of The Devil All The Time, fearing that it might be a series of short stories cobbled together to make a novel. Then, because some great characters were getting killed off early, I thought the horror was being overdone. I was mostly wrong on both counts: this is a complete, seamless and cleverly structured story that satisfies more and more as it reaches its climax. That's all you need to know.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and memorable..stays with you long after the final page...,
4.0 out of 5 stars Devilish and twisted,
This review is from: The Devil All the Time (Kindle Edition)I'm going to give this book a 4 out of 5 as I found the ending a bit of a let-down.
The rest of the book is gripping and leaves you wondering what's going to happen next. All the characters have some sort of demons to exorcise in their lives and that's exactly what made them appealing to me.
I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good plot, colourful dialogue, plenty of action and few descriptions.
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The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock (Paperback - 3 Nov 2011)
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