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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 11 September 2006
I decided to write this when I read the previous review. Worried that it might put off potential readers of this incredible book I decided another opinion should be heard. First of all though I would like to say that the previous reviewer was right about the publishers synopsis telling you nothing useful. But this is quite a hard book to describe plotwise. The best way I can think to describe it is that it gave me the feeling of silk flowing over me; the words are so smooth and poetic, yet there is a brutal honesty of feeling that stikes right through. I became completly lost in A.L. Kennedy's world and the dazzling conclusion which, if I were to describe to you may seem absurd, seems only beautiful and perfectly fitting.
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on 17 December 2010
This was the first A. L. Kennedy book I had read. I chose it in a charity shop, because I have lived in Scotland for three years and always like to read more Scottish novels, and A. L. Kennedy is always quite entertaining on TV and radio.

I am slightly baffled by the book, but not more so than by a great many literary novels. (The 'pretentious nonsense' reviewer may have missed the fact that literary novels often do not spell out plot etc. explicitly, and should perhaps stick to reading Dan Brown.) I chose to let it 'wash over' me, much like one of the earlier reviewers here. Nevertheless, I would describe this book as being plot-driven. The story is mostly quite contemporary and down-to-earth, but with the added twist that the main character, outwith the first-person narrator, is a French author who died in 1655, and who inexplicably fetches up in a Glasgow house-share in the mid 1990s! This, and how the character's trajectory is dealt with, is what makes the story baffling, and overall makes this a very, very unusual book. Note that it is most definitely NOT magic realism, despite the appearance of the 300-year-old character.

I found the prose style delightful, and very readable, and the book overall was a fine mix of seriousness and humour. I am only giving it three stars because I reserve five stars for real favourites, and I didn't find this book quite enjoyable enough to give it four, but I definitely enjoyed it -- it's staying on my shelf, rather than going back to the charity shop -- and I shall definitely seek out more A. L. Kennedy.
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on 2 September 2006
I can't disagree more with the negative review above. Kennedy's prose style is the best I've seen in a modern writer - simple, direct and often emotionally devastating. The themes of her book are complex - the novel deals with love, sex and emotional articulacy - but they are handled in a sensitive and complex way that belies the cookie-cutter model of human relationships that most chick-lit and Hollywood movies chooses to peddle.
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on 12 December 2011
This is not the kind of book you race through to 'find out what happens'. This is a book which asks you to take your time, to stop and think and feel. Kennedy's prose is so elegant and so precise it can seem sparse. It's the discipline of a short story extended into a novel. Often, like in a good screenplay, the drama lies in what is NOT said explicitly. Personally, I like this: I prefer books that don't have a built-in underscore and laughter track. One of the novel's main themes is communication: sometimes it plays with that, it isn't always direct. But the prose is rich in brilliant images which mosaic into a complete and vivid picture... which you might need to step back to admire. I've re-read this novel several times and each time I've discovered more.

That said, you will want to find out what happens. Some sections are funny. Some have real page-turner momentum. There is a story-arc of epic proportions. But most importantly you want to find out what happens because her characters are so real (yes, the lost 300 year old Frenchman too... and I won't give away who he is). They are so beautifully drawn and wrestling with such high stakes... you have to care for them. The questions are the big ones: how does love withstand time and death, without basic human needs can we still be human, where do life and poetry connect, can you have an identity without memory, where does a human being belong in the universe? Big stuff indeed. But all grounded in the practical realities of living in a modern Scottish city.

So... this book may not be for everyone but it is a fine piece of work, which I highly recommend. The ending is extraordinary!
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on 16 May 2012
This was my first novel by this author that I read. I thought the book was going to be a a bit of a smart mystery but it came to be nothing of the sort.

I love poetry and philosophy so some parts of the book, for me, were very beautiful, capturing the sense of smell, taste, feelings, linking unimportant moments of short-term memory and everyday life to precious memories and discoveries of life. But as a book, I have to agree that it has very little plot and too many times the story is not going anywhere- it is just a pretentious jiba-jaba. The book started to have some sort of a plot around page 300 which is pretty much somewhere in the middle of the book! At the end, the "story" picks up and, comparing to the start, gets rushed and finished off. After finishing the book, I was left feeling that the author just wrote something for the sake of writing and then realised that, for the book to be published, it actually needs some plot. This book is by no means rememberable and that is a very big problem when there are thousands of books and authors out there. It took me roughly a month to read it and I am a very fast reader...make your own judgement of what that means.
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on 8 December 2013
Such an odd, yet "spot on", exploration of the psyche, and also laugh-out-loud hilariously insightful a book. How does she do it?
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on 22 March 2013
One of our book group choices and I just didn't like it could not form any interest in any of the characters and never actually finished it
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on 25 February 2005
This has to be the worst book I have ever read. I challenge any reader to know what the author is trying to get across or to follow the basic theme of the underlying story. Even the publisher's own synopsis is baffling - they obviously struggled to translate this rubbish. No wonder second hand and charity bookstores are overflowing with copies!
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