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The Chalk Artist Hardcover – 1 Jun 2017

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Jun. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1786490889
  • ISBN-13: 978-1786490889
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 691,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


A thriller and a page-turner... Brilliant - Lionel Shriver, Guardian; Wonderfully written and as compulsive as Grisham... A riveting novel - The Times -- Praise for INTUITION Goodman is everything it says on her tin - a wonderful, lyrical writer - but she also has an astute eye for comedy and some bits of the book are truly hilarious. - Daily Mail; The Cookbook Collector is wise, moving, and every bit as impressive as Freedom - Independent on Sunday -- Praise for THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR

Book Description

Allegra Goodman, lauded by Lionel Shriver, shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize, and a New York Times bestselling novelist, tackles love, obsession and alternate realities in this gritty and thought-provoking novel.

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Top Customer Reviews

By prisrob TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Jun. 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
Allegra Goldman has written several books, and I have read most of them. She explores certain persons, places and themes, and fills them with interesting characters of the time. Most of her books have a serious theme, but you will find a sense of humor within. In this book there are several themes, but if you knew one of them had to do with reality games would you continue?

Collin, a recent drop out from college is tending bar in his hometown, Cambridge, Mass. He is attracted to a young woman, most probably a teacher, who comes in several times a week and grades papers. Nina, teaches poetry, Emerson and Shakespeare to high school students. They meet, she discovers the artistic side of Collin and he is offered a job with her father's firm developing new reality games. All good and fine, as we follow them, we meet Collin's mother, and the neighbors and friends who come to her parties. One such group, a mother and two children play an integral part in this novel. This is a novel of finding yourself and proving your worth. Developing your talents, particularly when someone provides some nurturing.

This is a novel of some simplicity, no overthinking required, but it has a thread that provides a base in reality. The reality games of today, so many young adults are caught up in these games and their days and nights are spent with reality figures. What does this do your persona? How do you connect with the real world?

Recommended. prisrob 06-01-17
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Format: Hardcover
At first I found it quite hate to figure out the main story line for this book. Its all about a multiplayer role playing video game company and a teenagers addiction to the game. He also becomes addicted to one of the other players. In another side to the story is a young teacher and a guy that works in a bar who begin to date. He is a fantastic artist and her dad owns a video game company. After working there for a while he starts getting close to a young girl who works there which could be the end of his relationship.

It may not have been intended to be taken the way that I have but I see this as a great way to highlight how dangerous addiction can be and that it comes in many different forms. As video games or even as people. And how manipulating people can be. Fantastic read. Little hard to begin with when you don't really know where the story is going to go but you find yourself wanting to know what happens next.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 17 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very readable, but the characters pale in comparison to the virtual reality world created in this book... 12 Mar. 2017
By Chel Micheline - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've read many of Allegra Goodman's books, and one thing I can always say about them is that they are compulsively readable. And "The Chalk Artist" is no different, but there were a few issues with it.

The book is about a teacher (Nina), her boyfriend (Collin, the chalk artist in the title, who goes to work for the teacher's father's video game company), and the two teens who get caught up in the world of the virtual reality video games created by the teacher's father. Of course, all four characters wind up entwined as a result.

I'm NOT a gamer, but I have to admit I got caught up in Goodman's vivid descriptions of the different games (definitely some Ready Player One comparisons will be made, although the action in this book mostly takes place in "real life", if you will.) So that aspect of the book was really amazing. If the book were more about that and less about the way the games affected each of the characters (Collin helps create the games, the teenagers live as by-products of the games, and Nina sees the way the games influence the kids...)

The main problem I had with this book is that I didn't really connect with any of the characters- I felt like the book casts a wide net, and there is a fairly large group of supporting characters who really don't add anything to the story, and some of that page real estate could have gone to developing the main characters. It was as if the main characters were all sort of an afterthought to how the whole video game plot might be serviced. None of the characters resonated with me, and even when surprises were revealed about the characters, I didn't feel like I was familiar enough with them to have much of a reaction. To me, the game was the main character of this book.

Like I said, it's compulsively readable, and it sucks you in right away. But with the character issues, I can't count it as one of my favorite Allegra Goodman books. It's good, but I wish some of the vivid descriptions of the games had been lavished on the characters.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag 17 Feb. 2017
By switterbug/Betsey Van Horn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The story of a romance and the obsessions of the video game community peripherally connect in Allegra Goodman’s latest novel. Privileged daughter, Nina, is a teacher in a tough Boston public school. Daughter of a video game CEO, she doesn’t ever need to work, but wants to make a difference in bringing literature to students. She falls in love with Collin, a struggling college dropout with a talent as a chalk artist. Much mention is made about the impermanence of his pictures—he erases his drawings right after he finishes them.

The second story concerns Aiden, an intelligent but apathetic student of a single mother who works nights, and while she is gone, he spends those sleepless hours on his obsession—the virtual reality game that was created by Nina’s father and uncle. His twin sister, Diana, is his best friend, and covers for him while he ignores his studies, even allowing him to plagiarize her paper.

The aspect that impressed me was Goodman’s ability to create a visually stunning world of Arkadia—EverWhen and an underworld of Elves, flamethrowers, fantastical horses, and a topography that really pops. I am not a gamer, and was wary of a novel that focused on this industry. But that was not my problem; in fact, delving into this netherworld was, in my opinion, the most engaging part of the novel. Goodman’s arresting Arkadia was appealing and not technical. It was presented mostly via the theme of obsession, and weighted more with the art and illustration side to it.

The love story between Collin and Nina, however, was lukewarm and derivative. Rich girl gets poor boy job at daddy’s company, which seeds obvious conflicts. Love affair proceeds predictably, including the stumbles along the way. The theme of permanence vs. impermanence did offer some nuggets of insight, and helped to soften the other more obvious clichés.

Even the intentional probity to Nina’s teaching skills and passion, and Collins challenges at Arkadia, seemed derivative. Goodman traded originality for platitudes, and organic moral complexity for sentimentality. I think the appropriate audience would be a YA crossover. If you have read a limited repertoire of love stories, this may appeal. Moreover, the virtual reality angle is a topical trend in some literature. Despite the flaws, I was periodically absorbed. It took about 90 pages to commit to the narrative, and accept the boilerplate romance.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The virtual reality content spoiled the book for me 20 April 2017
By a reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Allegra Goodman writes very well and pulls you right into her story of young people coming of age in Cambridge, MA. The characters are working at finding what they want to do with their lives. She starts off with a believable love story between Collin, the Chalk Artist of the title, and Nina, who
is struggling in her first year of teaching to share her love of literature with with her disinterested students and and is very discouraged.

Then more characters are introduced and I found it confusing. Also I just couldn't care about Aiden, boy who preferred to living in a virtual reality game rather than real life, and try as I might I couldn't finish the book. The writing is excellent and zips right along but to me the plot seemed to be going nowhere and about halfway through the good writing wasn't enough.
4.0 out of 5 stars THE CHALK ARTIST is intelligent, absorbing and inventive, with characters who inspire an ache, a sob, a smile 19 Jun. 2017
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Bert drawing pictures on the pavement: Remember those scenes from Mary Poppins? I wonder if Allegra Goodman had them in mind when she created Collin James in her eighth book, THE CHALK ARTIST. There is something mighty appealing about an artist who erases his own work, who accepts its evanescence, who revels mostly in the doing, not in the finished product.

Collin is nothing if not appealing. At 23, he is preternaturally gifted but what most people would call an underachiever. An art school dropout, he works in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, bar and draws temporary chalk backdrops on blackboards for an outfit called Theater Without Walls, which performs weird versions of classic plays in public spaces.

Then he meets Nina, from a part of Cambridge much wealthier than his. She is bright and lovely but what most people would call an earnest rich kid. As a trainee with TeacherCorps, she is attempting to inspire her unruly teenage students at Emerson High School with American literature: Thoreau, Emerson, Dickinson. Mostly, she can’t even keep them quiet and seated.

Goodman adds a modern twist by making Nina the daughter of Viktor Lazare, founding genius of Arkadia, a video-game empire that has mesmerized millions of kids. Its products --- the sword-and-sorcery game EverWhen and its soon-to-be-released dark sister, UnderWorld --- are more seductive than poetry or theater, and far more lucrative. When Nina gets her father to audition Collin for a job, these different worlds meet, and clash. Where do virtual-reality games sit on the line between commerce and art? Are they harmless pastimes or, as one character claims, “weapons of mass destruction”?

Paralleling Nina and Collin are two characters who are the recipients (or victims?) of their efforts: the 16-year-old twins Aidan and Diana. Both, in turn, are Nina’s students, and Aidan is obsessed with --- literally addicted to --- the games Collin now labors to create. THE CHALK ARTIST is a sort of coming-of-age book times four. While the younger pair are awash in identity crisis, the older two are struggling to find themselves in work.

The book is at its best when it evokes this visceral sense of vocation. The scenes in which Collin is drawing are absolutely thrilling (“As mimics capture gestures in performance, he drew essential details, the curve of a neck, the soft dent in a pillow, the arc of a careening sled…. How did he do it? He seemed to steal from the world”). And Nina’s efforts to engage her students are filled with passion and self-doubt: “You had to get louder in this profession, not softer…. You were supposed to scream to show you cared…. Nina’s emotions were all wrong, if that was possible. She wasn’t angry when kids didn’t do the reading. She was crushed.”

Goodman is also wonderful at creating institutions, her descriptions stopping just this side of satire. Arkadia is fascinating, even scary, a self-contained hive ruled by Viktor and his sadistic, brilliant brother, Peter. Emerson High, where Nina teaches, is an ultra-progressive public school where students are required to keep Discovery Journals and hand in portfolios instead of taking exams. THE CHALK ARTIST is notable, too, for its affectionate portrait of Cambridge --- Collin’s version, at least --- with its block parties, organic foodfests, tree funerals and crafty, multiethnic vibe.

I have loved Goodman’s fiction ever since I read her early work: the story collection THE FAMILY MARKOWITZ (1996) and KAATERSKILL FALLS (1998), a National Book Award finalist. I also enjoyed THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR (2006) and INTUITION (2010). But her more recent novels seem to me a bit tamer than before, and that’s true of THE CHALK ARTIST as well. There’s more drama and bite in the video games than in the main characters’ real lives.

When Nina and Collin aren’t actually working, their relationship seemed to me blandly magical, gorgeously written but also soft-focus and slow-motion, like those scenes in movies when love is new and the Oscar-nominated song plays. They romp in the snow, have graceful sex, and even when they fight, nothing very gnarly happens. There is some tension in wondering how far Aidan will go to feed his obsession, but, that apart, I found the younger generation slightly tedious, especially the (to me) unnecessarily elaborate adventures in EverWhen and UnderWorld. When Diana develops an attraction to girls, or rather to one girl, it feels trendy rather than organic; when, through Nina’s tutoring, Aidan becomes a convert to poetry (Ezra Pound, yet!), it seems too pat. Yet I did like the sparring between the two kids, their bond a real-feeling mix of rivalry and love.

There are no good guys or bad guys here (with the possible exception of Peter). And that is Goodman’s gift: her benevolence, her fondness for her settings and the people who inhabit them. THE CHALK ARTIST is intelligent, absorbing and inventive, with characters who inspire an ache, a sob, a smile. I could visualize them all --- as vividly as if Collin himself had drawn their portraits --- in the heat of their work, their art, their addiction, their rage and love.

Reviewed by Katherine B. Weissman.
4.0 out of 5 stars If you love gaming you'll love this. If you love modern day stories with virtual reality thrown in you'll love it. 10 April 2017
By Jane Hinrichs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My review is complicated. I said I liked it because it really draws you in. The characters are complex and likable. There is character development as the story goes. It is hard to put down. here is some of the story: a young teacher teaches high school kids where she feels she has no control. She is intimidated by the older teachers with more experience. You are sure she is going to be eaten alive by her students. Then we are introduced to a very talented artist. He is the chalk artist. He is a full of different talents and kind of aimless, no direction. The teacher meets him, well he spots her first at the diner he works at and eventually they hit it off. She's like uptown. She's poor town. They of course fall in love (or lust whatever you call it). And we then find out she is the daughter of a world-famous CEO of a computer game company. Everyone knows her father. And when she sees her artist boyfriend's talent she knows she must have him meet her dad. So eventually they meet. And of course they are all blown away by his artistic genius. And then of course we see him get sucked into this world and his girlfriend is falling farther and farther down the chain of immpotance. he starts having a think for a fellow worker there. And while we have this story going on, we meet this teen who is really into gaming. Turns out (I dont' want to give too much away so I will try to be cryptic) that he was given this new game that isn't even out by someone unknown to him from the said computer game company. He doesn't realize he is testing out the game. There's a whole other story here. His sister is in the teacher's class (this gets all connected eventually). Anyway.....as you can see it is complicated (but surprisingly easy to keep straight as you read).

Now, if you are a gamer you are going to love this book. But as a mom who already doesn't like video games this book is frightening. I see the allure of these games just by reading this book but I can see it take away life after life in this story and I am scared to death of anyone I love playing these games. BY the way the game they are testing doesn't exist but it would be so life-changing if it would. SInce i have a son who works in the virtual reality field I know one day something like this will exist and it scares me! And I am sure you see my problem -- my very much loved son could be creating something like this in the near future and I hate that thought! It terrifies me.

Anyway, this book will get to you. This book will eat up your time. This book is a lot like the computer game it revolves around. So watch it. Beware. Read it if you dare!!
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