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on 5 April 2017
Andrew is talking to a psychiatrist about his life, loves and obsessions. It isn't quite a monologue because the doctor asks questions, makes comments and sometimes takes over the narrative. Because it's by Doctorow, it fizzes with ideas and there are brilliant observations on almost every page. What didn't really work for me was the central character. Despite him having a heartbreaking story to tell, I didn't connect with him on an emotional level.
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on 17 October 2015
This is not the book you think it is when you start reading it. It's probably not the book you think it is a third or half of the way through it either.

Andrew is telling his life story to "Doc". I spent a fair amount of time wondering if Doc was a construct of Andrew's own brain, and how much of all this was really real. Perhaps the title had something to do with that - it conjured up images of brains in vats and thought experiments for me.

Anyway, Andrew is a cognitive scientist that has not had the best of luck. He probably has some kind of diagnosis (i.e. somewhere on the Autistic spectrum), which may have contributed to some of the bad luck, but none of it seems intentional on his part, even if he's contributed strongly to most of it. We hear about his ex wife, his new wife after that, his child(ren), and all the time we wonder why he is talking to "Doc". His life story seems almost incidental to whatever it is that is important here - and what that is we don't find out until towards the end.

I don't want to give things away, but suffice to say that the book takes a bit of a left turn as it nears the end, and turns our (or at least my) expectations on their head. It's neatly done though, and doesn't seem jarring - in fact it seems like a natural thing to have happened to Andrew, bearing in mind his life history and the sort of luck he's had.

The book is fairly short and an easy read. I suspect it's a bit of a marmite book - you'll either really enjoy it or really hate it. For my part I really liked it.
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Andrew, a cognitive scientist tells the story of his life in a rambling fashion. But what a word and thought fest it is. He is incarcerated somewhere talking to an unknown doctor, presumably a psychiatrist. He ranges from The Prisoner’s Dilemma and a stint at the White House to the mundane and an amazing account of a phone message of from someone about to throw himself off one of the burning Twin Towers in New York. He mourns the death of one daughter, who, he imagines, died running up the stairs of one of the towers to save others and the loss of her baby, Willa who he never sees again.
And, of course, amazing erudition and questions for ourselves to answer.
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on 13 May 2015
Throughout the book Andrew tells the story of his life to someone the reader only knows as 'Doc'. Andrew talks about his childhood, his loves, losses and fears and how his life has been shaped by his experiences.
The ending was a particular surprise.
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on 10 March 2015
Read this, having seen the acclaimed Ragtime. it was rather intriguing and good book group discussion material. Short book but challenging and rather puzzling, but therefore a stimulating read.
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on 31 December 2015
Cover 3/5

Contents

Made a start and I think it will become a good book in time. I read on ...

Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab!
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on 9 February 2015
I read it in One Go, and didn't want it to end. Superbly wrought.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 17 January 2014
Andrew is talking to a therapist. He's talking because his life has been a series of alarming, even horrifying accidents, in which somehow Andrew always seems to be implicated. The novel begins with him on a snowy night, trying to confide care of his young baby to his ex-wife; the book winds through his whole life and all its tragedies.

What elevates this interesting concept to great art, though, is Doctorow's execution - which is just superb. The clarity of the thought in this book is extraordinary; at the same time, we are drawn into 'Andrew's Brain' about as well as you could possibly hope for in a novel - you feel completely involved in the character, in the novel's action, and then also observing it, with a coolness that matches Andrew's own inability to respond emotionally to his life's events.

Andrew becomes a way, also, of analysing some of the events of recent years, so that there is even a historical and political element to the text. And by the end you are left with a whole series of unresolved but fascinating questions. Who is Andrew, really? Who is he really talking to? What is the significance of Andrew's relationship with his college roommate? (I don't want to make spoilers.) And most of all, what really happened?

You could read this book in an evening: I did. But you won't forget it fast.
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on 11 March 2014
I'm 35% into this book and I just don't get it!! The book I read prior to this was The Book Thief and I loved it, couldn't put it down. I almost dread going to bed! Hopefully it will get better
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