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Last Things Paperback – 22 May 2000

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Paperback, 22 May 2000
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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (22 May 2000)
  • ISBN-10: 0747551472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747551478
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,281,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

The charisma and damage of madness gives a desperate, lyrical glamour to Jenny Offill's debut novel Last Things. Eight-year-old Grace Davitt's mother Anna is an ornithologist with a passion for knowledge. Not the sort that comes in dry and dusty lists in factual books but the intense matters of life and death with all their beauty and harshness.

Anna's imagination is inspiring, defiantly off-kilter. She paints the spare room black and draws upon it the cosmic calendar--the history of the world recreated with glow-in-the-dark stars. She has a birthday party for the earth--"it was 4.6 billion years old, so no candles, she said"--and employs a boy genius who has a dream "that one day entire cities might be illuminated by mould" to baby-sit.

Everything goes awry on a road trip to New Orleans "where there is always a parade" and where money and food and sleep are in short supply. There is the wistful hope that "someday we would drive our sweet-smelling car home, saying, We always thought of you. You never for a moment left our hearts". They do arrive home but soon after Anna fills her coat pockets with stones and drives into the lake.

Jenny Offill tells the story with a melancholy elegance; evolution, extinction and madness sparkle like stars in this wise and wonderful tale of knowledge and loss. --Eithne Farry --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Remarkable. . . . If 'last things' means things that will last, then Offill's novel is one of them." --"The New York Times Book Review
"
"Beautiful. . . . A gently funny tragedy about childhood and madness. . . . Pokes at the boundaries between reason and imagination." --"Newsday"
"Sparse, elegant, and inviting. . . . Jenny Offill . . . has created a fantastical family, at times loving and sweet, sorrowful and dangerous." --"The Boston Globe"
"Offill's deceptively simple prose, her exquisite sense of metaphor and her ear for humor capture the subtle perceptions of this wise child so that we feel to the bone her burgeoning awareness." --"Chicago Tribune"
""Last Things" mines an interval of childhood before the division of intellectual labor. In this state of innocence, science, philosophy, mythology, bunk, wonder, and sorrow are all one. Jenny Offill's complicated and arresting farewell to this dangerous time is compelling as few recent novels on the subject have been." --Rick Moody
"Truly delightful." --"The Baltimore Sun
"
"Stunning. . . . Dazzling. . . . A delightful novel, rich for its voracious eye onto real and imaginary moments of quandary in the lives of its characters and in the larger life of the universe." --"Ploughshares
"
"[A] gem of a first novel." --"Los Angeles Times"
"Mesmerizing. . . . Pitch-perfect. . . . [Offill] writes with a heartbreaking clarity." --"The Times "(London)
"Offill's debut is a rare feat of remarkable constraint and nearly miraculous construction of a most unique family." --"Publishers Weekly" (starred) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this shortly after completing the same author's Department of Speculation - which may have been an error.

I enjoyed very much the first half of the book, which focusses on the lived experience of a child of 7/8 years old, learning about the world from her mother and father - and this is a combination of myth, perception and scientific understanding, as she also plays with cousins and friends. The writing is very exact, and the writing and the world are both full of imagination.

As the themes start to grow darker in the second half of the book, I found it slightly less convincing and significantly less engaging - though it did serve to remind me very forcibly just how much children live in the power of their parents' and their parents' wellbeing.

I found the conclusion enigmatic - that may be me, however, rather than some fault of the author or the writing.

So: I'd recommend the recent novel more strongly, despite the attractions this one holds in its first part...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite the fact that this is probably way out of my comfort zone, (I'm 69 this year) I found myself charmed and moved by this book. The protagonist from whom we view the world is a girl approaching her teenage years called Grace. Her father is a twin and has a presents a TV network show about science which he takes over from his twin, eventually. It sounds quite good in fact, and it certainly pleases Grace who wants to know everything she can about the world. Despite her charm and warmth, Grace sometimes acts very badly in this book, but in the main she always managed to keep my good opinion throughout. I felt she was very believable.

Although this book is probably meant for teenagers, I enjoyed it very much. The child herself is shown as highly intelligent and the family are first presented as very likeable. But that isn’t going to last and when Grace and her mother set off for Arizona in a car bought for her by them by the child’s mother, they leave the father behind. They visit the area given over to the Burning Man Festival. This event is staged in the desert every year and probably stems from the love of freedom as well as less salubrious circumstances. The festival has been presented as a wonderful moment of people coming together freely, and it is not looked on with favour by everyone, but it makes a great setting, although there are some criminal undertones and it’s not a good setting for a child. The Burning Man festival seems to regularly come up in books set in America and one can understand the fascination of a place and time when one can give in to any kind of behaviour. There is then a period where some stability is provided by her father, who takes her to live with him and his new girlfriend (the amusingly named Foxface).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not much to say except this is GLORIOUS. Full of unexpecteds.
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