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The Believers Perfect Paperback – 1 Apr 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Perfect Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (UK) (April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141040645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141040646
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 2.7 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,154,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Funny, moving and very, very true . . . a brilliant, brilliant book (Daily Mail)

Beautiful, stunningly written . . . a subtle, funny family farce about faith and identity (Guardian)

Hilarious . . . a brilliant analysis of what makes families tick (Sunday Express) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

Funny, moving and very, very, true. A brilliant, brilliant book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
`At a party in a bedsit just off Gower Street a young woman stood alone at a window, her elbows pinned to her sides in an attempt to hide the dark flowers of perspiration blossoming at the armholes of her dress.'

The Believers opens with a prologue set in London in 1962 - just a year before sexual intercourse started according to Larkin - and sex happens on a first date within the first fifteen pages of the wonderfully written prologue which juxtaposes the sad provincialism of Audrey's parents with the possibilities of moving to New York with American Joel Litvinoff. With Joel she imagines being a comrade 'against injustice' and `sharing the passion and action of their time.'

The prologue is a fantastic opener; the writing is funny and sharp and there is a real sense of excitement and possibility. Heller's wit and clear eyed observation is evident in the opening pages - another woman joins her at the window as she is watching Joel and starts to speak to her about him. `Audrey nodded warily. She had never cared for conspiratorial female conversations of this sort. Its assumption of shared preoccupations was usually unfounded in her experience, its intimacies almost always the trapdoor to some subterranean hostility.' Audrey moves away when the women points out that Litvinoff is a Jew. `There was a time when she would have lingered to hear what amusing or sinister characteristic the woman attributed to the man's Jewishness........and then, when she had let the incriminating words be spoken, she would have gently informed the woman that she was Jewish herself. But she had tired of that part game. Embarrassing the prejudices of your country men was never quite as gratifying as you thought it would be; the countrymen somehow never embarrassed enough.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an book, which I really wanted to like and did - but only to a point. it's the story of a New York secular Jewish left wing intellectual family which, in itself, seemed a bit derivative, and how their various belief systems fall apart and are restructured after the patriarch falls ill. To me the problem with the book was it was mainly head with little heart. We had scenes in an orthodox Jewish community, scenes in a prison, scenes with an over-privileged girl from Florida, scenes with under-privileged black girls from Harlem with names like Chianti, liberal left wingers. It was all very well drawn and observed but ultimately you felt lists were being ticked off in an effort to provide a state of the nation work. The main characters move among these scenes like pawns. They were recognisable types but it was hard to sympathise with any of them. The final couple of scenes felt like a rapid wrapping up and at this point my credulity was tested. Heller is such a good writer, fluent and funny, but I think she is trying too hard to escape her history as a columinist detailing her own life and in the process emotion gets lost. I wish she'd not fight shy of it, her columns were genius in my opinion and had the personal touch this novel sadly lacks. I'm looking forward to her getting it right next time. I'm sure she can.
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Format: Paperback
The Prologue is set in London in 1962. I found it both unconvincing and could find no relevance to the rest of the book, which is set in New York in 2002. The central characters are the Jewish Litvinoff family: Joel, a radical lawyer; his English-born wife Audrey, even more left-wing than he is; their two daughters Rosa and Karla; and their adopted son Lenny.

These are all very well drawn. Joel is likeable; but for most of the book he is in a coma in hospital. Audrey, now 59, is rude, foul-mouthed and irascible; her one redeeming feature seems to me to be her love for her husband and, inexplicably, for the 34 year-old drug-addicted Lenny. She certainly does not extend any affection to her own daughters, who are at the receiving end of continuous criticism and wounding remarks; she is so intolerably unpleasant that one wonders what her friend Jean can possibly see in her. Karla, in a loveless marriage, is unhappy, overweight and obsessively placatory. Rosa, who has a good deal of her mother's truculence, has lost her belief in the family socialism and, to the disgust of her ferociously secular parents, is looking for a new identity by learning about orthodox Judaism, though she resists much of what her teachers (with considerable eloquence) tell her about the value of what to her is the absurdity of orthodox rituals.

The story reads easily and sustains one's interest throughout; Heller writes beautifully; her observations are sharp and often witty; the frequently abrasive dialogues are dynamic; and at the very end all those unhappy characters seem to have found something that gives their lives some meaning.
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By Lincs Reader TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover
It's been five years since Zoe Heller wrote Notes On A Scandal, and after reading The Believers I do believe it was well worth the wait. Heller is a genius at creating obnoxious characters, who are hateful and totally unlikeable yet spinning an unputdownable story at the same time.

The Believers opens when Audrey and Joel first meet in London and then moves quickly to New York in 2002, they have now been married for 40 years and the story really starts from there.

Joel is a very succesful, out-spoken New York lawyer and Audrey has been his dutiful and very outspoken wife for all these years. When Joel is taken very ill and the family discover his secret, they all start to examine how they feel about themselves and each other.

The whole family are very brittle and extremely disfunctional - with no likeable or warm characters amongst them, yet you still need to know what they will do next. Audrey, the mother is a particularly nasty piece of work and her outbursts of bad language and un PC comments are kind of delightful in her own way! The whole family hate each other and hate themselves and each one them questions their beliefs and views throughout the book.

This is totally absorbing and very compelling, but, I do feel that it may become a 'Marmite' book - you will either love it or hate it.

I loved it - I hope it's not another five years before her next book
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