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Umbrella Audio Download – Unabridged

3.1 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Download
  • Listening Length: 16 hours and 3 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
  • Audible.co.uk Release Date: 11 Oct. 2012
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009P6X5YI

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I picked this up to read on the commute to and from work, which was a mistake. This is not a book that one can easily dip in and out of, and the total immersion required to make the most of it is inconsistent with the constant distractions of a crowded train. However, this is not a criticism of the book itself, which, whilst certainly challenging at times, represents the rare combination of a compelling narrative wrapped in an artful and innovative prose style. Does it err into pretentiousness at times? Yes, in spades; but anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds listening to Will Self on almost any subject should come to this book adequately steeled for that, and while there is a certain amount of intellectual masturbation here, I found I could overlook that in my appreciation of an original and effective style. I also learned, as others on here have already said, that once you stop trying to wring some precise sense out of every word and simply let the stream of consciousness wash over you - in essence, once you start to read the book as it was written - you quickly become absorbed into the flow of the story. Overall, I found the book interesting more than enjoyable. Both my personal reading history and the literary canon generally are doubtless the richer for this book, but Umbrella is heavy going and while I appreciate the experience, it has not whetted my appetite to explore any of Self's other work any time soon.
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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Oct. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is fair to say that this is very much a marmite book - you will either go with the flow, read and enjoy, or struggle and hate this intriguing novel. It employs modernism, stream of consciousness and the storyline (such as it is) runs between times and characters. The novel takes the viewpoint of two main characters: the psychiatrist Dr Zachary Busner at Friern Hospital and patient Audrey Dearth.

When Busner begins work at Friern Hospital he is allocated two chronic wards. This is a place of endless corridors, psychiatric orderlies who employ "thump therapy" and patients who wear canvas tunics, said to resemble a uniform "for a slave labourer". Busner has an embittered wife, Miriam, and young children. He also has a brother who suffers from a mental illness and an interest in patients suffering from the somnolent-opthalmogic form of encephalitis lethargica ('sleepy sickness'). This came before the Spanish Flu epidemic at the end of WWI and Busner tells his wife about Audrey Dearth, a patient who may be one of hundreds scattered throughout asylums, who suffered the virus and have nothing psychologically wrong with them. Less than impressed, Miriam responds with a plea for him to show less enthusiasm and spend less time poring over patient notes and more with his family. Yet Busner visits other doctors who disagreed with the original diagnosis and attempts to investigate other patients with the same possible condition.

This novel veers between Busner's story and that of patient Audrey Dearth. We are taken through Audrey's life, from her childhood onwards and from Busner's investigations to his memories in later years. I know the building he writes about well, as I live near it, and thought he captured the sheer size and scale of the place beautifully.
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Format: Hardcover
Will Self's "Umbrella" spans a century taking three interwoven strands. One features Audrey Dearth, who in 1918 is a munitions worker who falls ill with encephalitis lethargica, a brain disease that spread over Europe after the Great War rendering many of its victims speechless and motionless. She is incarcerated in Friern hospital where, in the early 1970s a psychiatrist, Zach Busner wakes her from her stupor using a new drug. In the final thread, in 2010 the asylum has closed and the now retired Busner travels across north London seeking the truth about his encounter with his former patient. While that sounds like a fascinating story in its own right, be warned. Self's approach is ambitiously modernistic making this a very heavy going tome even by Self's standards.

Stream of consciousness books can be challenging but good, non-linear books can be confusing but illuminating. Taken together though they are a mess that no amount of clever word play can rescue.

The narrative is a stream of consciousness epic that doesn't break for silly ideas like chapters, or even many paragraphs, most of which last for two or three pages each. Similarly there is no chronological development or discernable structure and time frames and points of view are spliced together, often within the same paragraph. Most of us don't have the luxury of endless hours in which to read and have to fit reading in around life, necessitating putting a book down at some point. Quite where you are supposed to do this in "Umbrella" is a bit of a mystery. Although picking the book up again was more of a challenge than putting it down.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great read. I struggled with the language but if I read it again I'd enjoy it more. You have to stick with it otherwise you lose the enjoyment. I started reading Finnegan's Wake and found it a bit easier , but hey one thing at a time? Modernist literature is not there to baffle us. It's there to be enjoyed. If you like Flann O' Brien ,Irvine Welsh and David Mitchell then read this.
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