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The Canal Paperback – 15 Jul 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: MELVILLE HOUSE PUBLISHING (15 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935554018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554011
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.5 x 18.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 333,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Lee Rourke is the author of the short story collection Everyday [Social Disease Books]. He is also one of England's leading young literary critics, writing regularly for The Guardian, The Independent, TLS and the New Statesman, as well as leading book blogs such as RSB [readsteadybooks.com]. He is Contributing Editor at 3:AM Magazine [www.3ammagazine.com] and also blogs at Sponge! [www.leerourke.blogspot.com] He lives in London.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dark, poignant and evocative, The Canal is a terrific short novel set in London. With dark humour, as well as some shocking events, it is gripping and, at times, philosophical in its musings on boredom, depression and obsession. The picture of London presented may not be particularly attractive, but it's gritty and realistic.

One man is drawn to the canal where he sits all day instead of going to work. When he is joined on the bench by a stranger, he develops a need to know more about her, but she's not giving much away. The only witnesses to this are the ever present swans and geese and, at times, the local gang from the housing estate while opposite the bench the trendy office workers carry on without noticing them.

Rourke draws the reader in and we want to know about the mysterious stranger just as much as the main character does.

The writing style is wholly without pretension. There's an almost Pinter-esque sense of threat and danger to the dialogue. Unexpectedly great stuff.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an unusual book, very liitle happens yet I could not put it down. The book is full of beautiful descriptions of very ordinary things interspersed with the deep thoughts of the narrator. It feels that he is allowing the reader so far into his mind that it is almost a privilege to be there.
The dialogue is worth a particular mention, it is very engaging and feels very real.
Reading the book gives a very calming sensation. I think this is because the writing is very intense and almost forces you to read it slowly and savour every sentence.
I would recommend that you take your time with this book (it is less than 200 pages long) and enjoy the experience.
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I'm afraid I don't agree with the positive reviews above. From the pompous subtitle ('A Novel'), the cringemaking dedication and the epigraph that had more than a whiff of the anthology about it, it struck me as being irredeemably pretentious, two-dimensional and - uh-oh - immensely boring. I ended up skim-reading it - because I haven't got the money to buy books and leave them unthumbed on the shelf - and even that didn't stop it irritating me inside-out.

The text was drenched in a ponderous portentousness and was awash with threadbare expressions and devices: a swan so weighed down with significance (see all romance from classical antiquity onwards) I'm surprised it didn't drown in a pool of stagnant allegory long before it was killed by a crossbow bolt; 'playful' meditations on 1970s arcade games (see every edition of FHM since its inception); a hero who 'drinks in' the object of his affection (see the collected works of Dame Barbara Cartland); the Irish girl in the narrator's class at school who had the 'mellifluous' accent (see Frank McCourt/Titanic/Far and Away/Boston on St Patrick's Day/every taxi driver in Dublin); sentimental reminiscences of childhood with no obvious relevance to what there was of a story (see all high-school reunions); things 'nestling' all over the place (see, I dunno, Nestlé)...

The writing style was actually quite good and spare on the whole - albeit very closely modelled on Tom McCarthy's unassuming prose - but for me it was constantly marred by a creeping verbosity and the author's inability to rein in an unnecessary flourish.
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By Ian Shine VINE VOICE on 19 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is Lee Rourke's debut novel and follows his 2007 collection of short stories "Everyday".
It was the joint-winner of the Guardian's "Not the Booker Prize" for 2010 and perhaps deservedly so, because "The Canal" represents the kind of brave, edgy approach to fiction that the Booker Prize seems to so consistently shy away from in favour of the tried and tested, safe bets that come in the shape of established authors treading already-trodden routes.
Rourke's short book clips along at a fair old pace, despite essentially being an existentialist novel full of heavy themes. His prime theme is boredom: "It is the power of everyday boredom that compels people to do things - even if that something is nothing."
In the case of Rourke's narrator it is his boredom with work that causes him to quit and spend his days sitting on a bench by a north London canal.
Here he sits and observes everyday goings-on - people at work; kids being vandals - before eventually being joined by a female companion. Their relationship is the narrative drive behind the book, as the two characters explore their outsider status - this woman too seems to be out of work of her own volition - while a kind of muted love story develops.
The book opens with a quote from German existentialist Martin Heidegger - "We are suspended in dread" - that accurately reflects a lot of the characters observed in the novel by the narrator, and even the narrator himself to an extent.
Everyone is suspended in the dread of becoming bored, forced to while away the time to prevent themselves from becoming bored by working, keeping up with fashion, or "watching TV, for no other reasons than there was nothing else to do, because that's what we are supposed to do.
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