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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent psychological thriller ........
Chris Bohjalian's novel Midwives has for a long time been one of my favourite books and I have since read Before You Know Kindness and enjoyed it immensely. However I came to The Double Bind with high expectations and having just finished it I am left feeling a little confused. The premise of the story is centered around Laurel Estabrook, a twenty plus social worker at...
Published on 23 May 2007 by F. Draper

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An unusual idea but the plot simply doesn't work
The concept of the discovery of a secret hoard of photographs belonging to a homeless man who had died intrigued me - at least it was a different idea, unlike anything I had ever read before. The attack on the heroine right at the beginning is frighteningly told as is her terrifying panic and realisation that she may be about to die. This is of course slightly modified...
Published on 6 Dec 2008 by Mary Steward


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent psychological thriller ........, 23 May 2007
By 
F. Draper "paperbackmaniac" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Bind (Hardcover)
Chris Bohjalian's novel Midwives has for a long time been one of my favourite books and I have since read Before You Know Kindness and enjoyed it immensely. However I came to The Double Bind with high expectations and having just finished it I am left feeling a little confused. The premise of the story is centered around Laurel Estabrook, a twenty plus social worker at BEDS, a Burlington homeless shelter. Laurel had in the past been the victim of a vicious sexual attack by two men whilst mountain bike riding in the Vermont Hills. Then Bobbie Crocker is brought to the shelter, all he has to his name is a box of old photographs, the purported output of his mentally troubled lifetime. These photographs are his pictorial "autobiography" and following his death the head of the shelter gives Laurel the task of cataloguing them with a view to an exhibition of his work to raise funds. The photographs are of a professional standard and show icons of the 50's and 60's such as Chuck Berry, Julie Andrews, Robert Frost and Eartha Kitt. The author uses the photographs of another real itinerant photographer to interleave the chapters and give added credence to the book.

The device of weaving classic fictional characters into a modern-day psychological thriller is now introduced into the story. Amongst the photographs are ones which Laurel recognises as being of Jay Gatsby's mansion in West Egg and the Buchanan estate in East Egg which at this point I found to be a difficult notion. Pragmatically I was reading the novel on one level as a piece of fiction and then the author introduces another set of well-known fictional characters which the reader is supposed to believe are living breathing characters in their own right. If you have not read the Great Gatsby recently it is a good idea to find out the story line as this will enhance your enjoyment of The Double Bind.

However I kept on reading and Chris Bohjalian manages to keep the pace and interest of the reader using this fictional deceit - and as Laurel's obsession with the photographer drags her even deeper into his troubled life her mental state starts to suffer dramatically. The author's ability to confuse reality and delusion is extremely well written and although the clues are there the end is a classic for a psychodrama.

The personal disenchantment which I mentioned earlier is down to the fact that having finished the book I cannot decide myself what and who were real and what and who delusional. Formulated in the 1950s to create a theory about schizophrenia, double bind theory is about relationships and what happens when important basic relationships are chronically subjected to invalidation through paradoxical communication which is the basic tenet of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How clever is this author, 9 Dec 2009
By 
P. Wright (Corbridge) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Bind (Paperback)
I read the Great Gatsby as a teenager and thought they were a right unnatractive, bunch of priviledged types, therefore was not precious at all about the author using the characters in this new book. A Great Gatsby lover might feel differently but I have Captain Correlli /Nicholas Cage syndrome

I just read this as part of my reading group and I'm expecting a lively discussion over the author's techniques and cleverness.

From the off I was gobsmacked at how the author surprised me and kept me guessing.

I haven't decided yet whether the final chapter was one bit of cleverness too far. Brilliant but I can't decide if I feel stupid or not. First time i've felt that on reading a book.

It's certainly a gripping read though and I'll be looking for his othe books.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a retelling - a superb repositioning, 10 April 2007
By 
This review is from: The Double Bind (Hardcover)
I'm not generally a fan of adaptations, but Bohjalian hits the perfect note with his repositioning of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby". Weaving the classic novel The Great Gatsby into his story, Chris Bohjalian's latest, The Double Bind, begins with a violent assault. Young Laurel Estabrook isn't prepared for tragedy when it strikes her randomly, altering her life forever. Brutally attacked by two men while biking in the picaresque Vermont Countryside, Laurel only just survives being raped. Physically and emotionally scarred by the experience, Laurel gropes blindly through her days, trying to return to some kind of normality. She goes on to complete college, which eventually leads her to working in BEDS, a homeless shelter in Burlington where she meets the fifty-six-year-old transient Bobbie Crocker.

Bobbie has a collection of dog-eared, badly preserved photographs with clearly recognizable faces. There are famous people as well as jazz musicians, sculptors, and people playing chess in Washington Square. Laurel also notices there are more recent photos from the area in Vermont where she was attacked, including some of a dirt road and even one with a girl on a bike. In one photo, Laurel recognizes instantly the home of Pamela Buchanan Marshfield and the country club from her childhood, including the Norman-style tower owned by a bootlegger named Gatsby. In another photo, there's a young boy with his sister, who Laurel presumes is Bobby Crocker himself.

The questions remains: if Pamela did have a brother, how could he have wound up homeless and mentally ill in Vermont? As Laurel tries to make sense of the box of dingy pictures and of Bobby's life, her boss wants to give Bobbie what he deserves: an exhibition highlighting his photos, reminding the city that the homeless are people, too, and have talents and dreams and accomplishments.

Laurel's curiosity is piqued when she discovers that Bobby was taking photos for Life magazine and that he had a close association with another famous photographer who also worked for Life. She becomes most fixated, however, on the photo of the girl on the bike, intrigued by the odd coincidence that Bobbie Crocker had owned pictures of the country club of her youth. Meanwhile, her best friend, Talia, and her older boyfriend, the emotionally indifferent David, begin to question Laurel's interest in Bobby Crocker. Laurel, however, just can't seem to help herself. She is gradually seduced by the secrets of the Buchanans and their ties to the Gatsby family, becoming increasingly paranoid when Pamela Buchanan expresses an interest in getting her hands on the photos.

Pamela is certain that Bobby's work is a deluded, malicious attempt to expose the Buchanan family secrets, and she has spent a not insubstantial part of her life trying to salvage her parents' reputation. She shudders when she imagines what sort of truth might be conjured from among her brother's old photos. Bohjalian masterfully unravels the mystery of how Bobby went from the mansion across from Laurel's childhood swim club to a dirt road to a homeless shelter in northern Vermont, while also perfectly capturing Laurel's obsession, vulnerability, and desperate need for reassurance as she tries to unlock the mystery of Bobby Crocker's photographic legacy.

This is a complex novel that not only exposes the inner workings of a defenseless young woman who finds herself in crisis. It also looks at the plight of the homeless and the terrible ramifications of schizophrenia on those whose lives, for whatever reason, have unravelled as they are tossed aside by society. The final revelations are indeed startling. Bobby Crocker certainly had his own devils, but nothing compares to what comes to haunt Laurel. She has been dogged for years by the repercussions of the attack ,and she finally understands that a forgiving memory is perhaps the only way to get by as her life becomes ever more deluded and distorted.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An unusual idea but the plot simply doesn't work, 6 Dec 2008
By 
Mary Steward (Guildford, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Double Bind (Paperback)
The concept of the discovery of a secret hoard of photographs belonging to a homeless man who had died intrigued me - at least it was a different idea, unlike anything I had ever read before. The attack on the heroine right at the beginning is frighteningly told as is her terrifying panic and realisation that she may be about to die. This is of course slightly modified by our knowledge that she doesn't die as the book's summary on the back has already told us.
The main part of the book I found quite intriguing as the mystery behind the photographs is gradually revealed although there is one idiosyncracy in the writing - referring to a character not as 'she' but 'the woman' - which I found grating and irritating. But if I could overlook that I felt the rest was well written.
But - and it's a huge 'but' unfortunately - the last two pages of the book, which of course I can't divulge, completely ruined the story for me. What should have been a truly dramatic and unexpected ending left me utterly frustrated because so much of what had gone before simply couldn't have happened if this was the truth behind the story.
The relationship between reader and writer has to be based on trust, trust that the author will play fair with the reader. A story told in the first person, for instance, cannot lead to his turning out in the last pages to be the murderer because we feel utterly cheated, he has lied to us throughout the book. A shock ending is one thing but one that then makes a mockery of all that's gone before, leaving gaping plot holes in its wake, is simply not acceptable. It's a pity because the story, as I said, is most unusual and should have been much better than it was.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery thriller, 1 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Double Bind (Paperback)
Very clever psychological mystery. Laurel works for a homeless charity in Vermont, but in her past she suffered a serious personal assault. When a former homeless man dies leaving a collection of photos, some of which laurel recognises - including one of her on a bike before her fateful attack, she becomes obsessed with finding out more and so her life begins to unravel and the true nature of the attack is revealed. Interspersed with real black & white photos which really were left to a homeless shelter in 2003. It wasn' a book I thought would grab me in quite the way it did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read and enjoy!, 13 April 2009
By 
S. Freeman "Sally Freeman" (Sheffield South Yorks) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Double Bind (Paperback)
Despite the two non-favourable reviews I have read I really enjoyed this book. It is not every day you read a book about homeless shelters and social workers so I enjoyed the subject matter from the start. I was really drawn into the story and although I was expecting a twist at the end, I wasn't anticipating this one. This is my second Bohjalian novel and it won't be my last.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a good read, 25 Nov 2010
By 
E. Sloan (south east) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Double Bind (Paperback)
i bought this becuase i liked the sound of it. i did enjoy reading this. its pretty easy to read, and it has an alright twist, if a little predictable, at the end. some of the chapters don't make a lot of sense, when you find out the ending, but i did enjoy it none the less.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars, 23 Sep 2014
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It was well written but I did not like it due to the ending.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Memory has a heavy backspin", 30 Mar 2007
This review is from: The Double Bind (Hardcover)
With its palpable sense of tension and with author Chris Bohjalian's trademark nuanced focus, The Double Bind weaves the classic novel The Great Gatsby, into a compelling story that involves the plight of the homeless, the ramifications of schizophrenia and the aftermath of a violent assault, the disfiguring emotional effects of which reverberate on one girl for years.

The young Laurel Estabrook isn't prepared for tragedy, yet it strikes her randomly, altering her life forever. Brutally attacked by while biking in the bucolic Underhill in the Vermont Countryside, Laurel survives being raped, but is physically and emotionally scarred by the experience.

Laurel gropes blindly through the days immediately following the assault, trying to return to some kind of normalcy. Eventually she goes on to college, which leads her to working in BEDS, a homeless shelter in Burlington where she meets the fifty-six year old transient Bobbie Crocker.

Bobbie has a collection of dog-eared badly preserved, photographs, with the faces were clearly recognizable, as well as jazz musicians, sculptors, and people playing chess in Washington Square. Laurel notices they're a few more recent ones from Underhill, including some of a dirt road and one with a girl on a bike.

In one photo Laurel recognizes instantly the home of Pamela Buchanan Marshfield and the country club from her childhood, including the Norman-like tower owned by a bootlegger named Gatsby and in another one, there's a young boy with his sister which Laurel presumes is Bobby Crocker himself. But if Pamela did have a brother, how could he have wound up homeless and mentally ill in Vermont?

Laurel tries to make sense of the box of dingy pictures while her boss wants to give Bobbie what he deserved, an exhibition highlighting Crocker's photographs, reminding the city that the homeless are people too, and have talents and dreams and accomplishments. But Laurel's curiosity is piqued when she discovers that Bobby was taking photos for Life Magazine and that he had a close association with another famous photographer who also worked for Life.

She becomes most fixated, however, over the photo of the girl on the bike and intrigued by the odd coincidence that Bobbie Crocker had owned pictures of the country club of her youth. Meanwhile, her best friend Talia and her older boyfriend, the emotionally indifferent David, begin to question Laurel's interest in Bobby Crocker.

Laurel is gradually seduced by the secrets of the Buchanan's and their ties to the Gatsby's, becoming increasingly paranoid when Pamela Buchanan expresses an interest in getting her hands on the photos. She sees Bobby's work as a deluded and malicious attempt to expose the Buchanan family secrets and has spent a not insubstantial part of her life trying to salvage her parents' reputation, shuddering when she imagines what sort of truth might be conjured from among her brother's old photos.

Bohjalian steadily builds the pressure, unraveling the complex mystery of how Bobby went from the mansion across from Laurel's childhood swim club to a dirt road and then to a homeless shelter in northern Vermont. Along the way, the author perfectly captures Laurel's sense of obsession and vulnerability, and also her desperate need for reassurance as she tries to unlock the mystery of Bobby Crocker's photographic legacy.

The final revelations are indeed startling, and indeed threw this reader for a loop. Bobby certainly had his own devils, but the word "devil" also comes to haunt Laurel, who along with all the other worlds that had dogged her for years, finally understands how a forgiving memory is perhaps the only way to get by and also how one family can be single handedly capable of so much delusion, distortion and disdain. Mike Leonard March 07.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably awful - an insult to Gatsby's memory, 21 Oct 2008
By 
WordWoman (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
The Great Gatsby is pretty much my favourite book, so I was intrigued to hear about this 'modern twist' on it. I was thinking along the lines of 'retellings' like 'Wide Sargasso Sea' or 'Mrs de Winter'. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the worst piece of writing I've ever laid eyes on - an eight-year-old's 'what I did at the weekend' homework would have more literary merit. There are books you know are bad but you still can't put them down ('The Da Vinci Code' anyone?)... this, on the other hand, is a book so bad you can't pick it up.
It starts off with a protracted and deeply unpleasant rape scene, then goes off into an implausible tale of the victim finding some photos that may or may not be of a random homeless man who may or may not be something to do with an old woman claiming to be Daisy Buchanan. And every page is padded out with endless, painfully pointless description, not to mention the cringeworthy dialgue. I barely got halfway through this drivel, but I've been told [spoiler alert!] that the ending is along the lines of 'and then I woke up and it was all a dream'.
I'm just glad the links to Scott Fitzgerald are so tenuous that this pile of nonsense should sink without a trace, never to be mentioned in the same breath as Gatsby.
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The Double Bind
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (Paperback - 6 Oct 2008)
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